Will Moneymaker Photography: Blog http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog en-us (C) 2003–2018 by Will Moneymaker (Will Moneymaker Photography) Mon, 22 Jan 2018 16:55:00 GMT Mon, 22 Jan 2018 16:55:00 GMT http://www.willmoneymaker.com/img/s/v-5/u220955063-o755396463-50.jpg Will Moneymaker Photography: Blog http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog 120 120 We've moved! http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/11/weve-moved Check out our new photography blog website. I know you'll enjoy it!


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Photography is Potential http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/9/photography-is-potential Wine BarrelsWine BarrelsThis photo was taken in a junkyard full of old wine barrels. There were so many bees flying around that I had to extend the legs on my tripod and slide it with my camera attached in between the wine barrels. I was stung once but it was worth getting this cool HDR photo. Also, I used the Topaz B&W Effectsconversion tool for the B&W enhancement...

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We’ve long made the assumption that photography is, in itself, an art. And in a general sense, that is true, the same way that painting is an art or that writing is an art. But I think that we need a little bit more specificity in what, precisely the art of photography is. Surveys from 2014 showed that 1.8 billion photographs were uploaded online each and every single day. Now just imagine how many photos are taken every day, most of which will never be uploaded.

Are all of these images art? Of course not, just the same as not every written word is considered art, either. Even within my own collection of images, the external hard drives with gigabytes upon gigabytes of image files. Is each and every one of those files something that should be considered art?

I don’t think so. To me, those files are simply assets. They are a tool that I could use to create art but in and of themselves, they are not actually art. It is similar to the painter who goes to the art store and buys the paints, brushes, and canvas that he or she will need. These three things are the assets that the painter will use, not the art itself. In that same way, image files are not necessarily art. Just an element that can become art.

I realize that this must sound confusing so let me explain my thought process a little more. Photographs, to me, photography, is potential. I’ll show you some of the things that I think need to be done in order for those assets to realize their potential.


It Takes a Creative Process to Make Art

I don’t know about anyone else but a lot of the photos in my collection are images that were taken with the idea that perhaps I could turn them into something, not necessarily that I would. Other images are parts of projects, assets that fit a chosen theme that may or may not become part of a grouping of images later on. As I’ve said, these, to me, are assets. Sitting untended on a hard drive somewhere, they will not become art until I have applied my creative process to them.

In other words, this means that pressing the shutter release is only the beginning of the journey. Later on, those images will need to be dragged out of their folders, thought about carefully, processed — do whatever you need to do in order to turn them into something other than a RAW file that no one will ever see. It is only after you have applied your creative process to these images that they will potentially become art.


Art Should Be Seen

This reminds me of that old rhetorical question: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter whether it made a sound or not. No one was there to see, hear or experience it so it may as well have never happened.

Ask yourself this about art: If an image exists but no one ever gets a chance to experience it, is it really art? Photography, or any art, is not so different from the question about the tree. You may be very fond of a photograph. Perhaps you’ve spent hours upon hours developing it, refining all the details, going back and redoing things until everything is just right.

However, if that image never sees the light of day, if others never get to experience what you have created, then is it still art? Of course, to you, it is — likely you enjoy the image or you would not have put the effort into it that you did. But I would argue that if you are willing to put that effort in, then perhaps it is time to show others the effort you have put in as well. At its heart, art is communication and you communicate with no one when you keep your work to yourself.

Now, this does not mean that you must have your work hanging in a museum or a gallery in order for it to win the vaunted title of art. It doesn’t have to be so complicated as all that. If you’d rather, simply turn your image into a PDF and share it with friends or photography enthusiasts via email or dedicated photography message boards. Print, mat, and frame it to hang in your home. Or, consider making a self-published book of images. Many companies nowadays make beautiful books on an individual basis — no need to print more than one if you’d rather not. Once you’ve had that book made, now you have your very own coffee table book that you and your family can enjoy and that you can share with visitors if you so desire. Whatever you choose, don’t let the effort go to waste on you and you alone. Share the beauty you have created!


Art is Labor

In this day and age with billions of photographs taken each day, it comes as no surprise that there are a lot of would-be photographers out there who call themselves artists but all they are doing is snapping photos as quickly as they can and then hitting that print or share button. And sure, amazing photographs will be created this way. With the sheer enormity of the numbers, there are likely many groundbreaking snapshots produced each day. It is like winning the lottery, however. The chances are there that it can happen but those chances are very low.

Real art, made by real artists, no matter the genre or medium, is a time intensive thing. It is a labor of love, one that requires the artist to spend inordinate amounts of time in the making of the piece. It is the kind of labor that doesn’t end until the artist is satisfied — if, indeed, it is even possible to satisfy him or her.

Bear in mind that these are only some of the necessities for creating art — and they aren’t always entirely essential. Once in a very great while, a photograph turns out wonderfully with minimal work required to make it ready for printing. Displaying images isn’t always easy, either. These thoughts, the viewing of images as potential art, are part of what helps me turn a photograph into something that I consider art, not necessarily the method that everyone needs to use.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) art potential http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/9/photography-is-potential Wed, 06 Sep 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Overcoming a Lack of Confidence in Your Photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/overcoming-a-lack-of-confidence Overcoming a Lack of ConfidenceOvercoming a Lack of ConfidenceOvercoming a Lack of Confidence
Raymond Depardon, a famous French photographer, was once noted as saying, “The photographer is filled with doubt. Nothing will soothe him.” I’ve found over my career that this is very true. There are lots of reasons to be doubtful, reasons that, if you let them, will stop your creative pursuits before you get underway.

It starts with the dive into photography itself. You may feel like you are not artistic enough to become an artist or the very thought of learning all of the things that you will one day need to know might seem overwhelming. Then, as you progress, it can be difficult to work up the courage to display your images, to ask for constructive criticism. Photos might languish in a folder on your computer simply because you don’t have the confidence to do much else with them.

Later on, confidence issues arise when you ponder sending submissions to websites, magazines or galleries. Maybe you’ve thought about starting a photography based business but you are worried that for one reason or another, it won’t be a success. You think you are not good enough or your business skills are not where they need to be — there are many things over the course of your career that will erode your confidence. And frankly, it does take a lot of confidence, courage even, to put yourself out there, be it as a hobbyist with a passion for art, a professional artist or a commercial photographer of some kind.

So how do you overcome a lack of confidence? Fortunately, there are lots of ways to go about it. Here are some of the methods that I recommend.

Gain Confidence through Valid Opinions

The opinions of others are a dangerous thing — though they are also vital for any artist. Let’s say that you show your artwork to your friends or family. Because they love you, they gush over it, whether it is actually good work or not. Compliments like this can work against you because the temptation is there to believe that these compliments are given simply because these people are trying to avoid hurting your feelings. Without critique, you don’t know what is wrong with the images, what you need to improve, and thus, you begin to doubt yourself.

Conversely, this can also lead to overconfidence followed by a serious blow to the ego. Imagine having your work buoyed by people who simply want to make you happy. So much so that you proudly strut off to the nearest gallery, believing you’ll almost certainly make that sale, only to have your work torn apart by a completely uninterested gallery owner.

This is why valid critique — not just the things you want to hear or the things that people want to say in order to avoid hurt feelings but real, honest constructive criticism and compliments — is absolutely essential. Find people that you trust, that you know will give you such critiques. Then you can work with the critiques you hear, learn from your mistakes and in the end, feel more confident in the knowledge that you are producing better artwork.

Sometimes a Lack of Confidence Stems from a Lack of Knowledge

You’d not perform a lifesaving surgery on someone without years upon years of medical knowledge gained. In that same way, a lack of knowledge can lead you to doubt yourself when it comes to photography — though that lack of knowledge about art or photography is not nearly so dire as the metaphor I used. Even so, when it comes time to submit your work, you might be tempted to think that you don’t have the years of experience that are backing other submissions. If you want to start a business, you might stop yourself before it gets off the ground because you think that you don’t know enough to become successful.

This is the time to sit back and look at how far you have already come. Appreciate your progress for what it is and then stop and understand something: If you have already learned as much as you know now, then there is nothing stopping you from learning that much more. Never let a lack of knowledge be a barrier. Instead, pursue more knowledge until you gain from it the confidence you need to proceed with your goals.

Avoiding Comparisons

Where to begin with comparisons? In this day and age of social media, perhaps you have heard of a new phenomenon that is being talked about, sometimes called “obsessive comparison disorder” or “social comparison disorder.” In a nutshell, this is a term that refers to the way people sometimes view social media. They look around and see only the bright points of other peoples’ lives, which leads them into a kind of depression concerning their own lives. They’re comparing only the good things that they see on their friends’ timelines with the entirety of their own life experience, which is made up of both good and bad things. Unsurprisingly, when people examine their own lives against the picture-perfect world of Facebook, they often feel as if their life comes up short.

Photographers do this same thing. We look at the accomplishments, awards, and accolades of others and we use those comparisons to tear ourselves down. We don’t look at the hard work, the struggle, that went into those accomplishments. All we see is something that another has that we don’t. We fault ourselves for that lack of achievement instead of working to achieve the same.

Instead of comparing your accomplishments against the accomplishments of others, remember that it isn’t the gear, the accolades or even luck that makes the artist. Artists are born because they have the confidence to push onward despite obstacles in those other categories. If you find yourself looking at a photographer who has had six gallery showings where you have had none, think about this: Perhaps that photographer has been turned down by scores or even hundreds of galleries to get into those six where his or her work is featured now.

Most importantly, don’t dwell on what everyone around you is doing, thereby letting those comparisons erode at your confidence. Instead, push forward. Do what you want to do, not what you think you should be doing based on your observation of others.

There are many more things that can eat away at your confidence in this business, this art form. And for each of those things, there is a way to get past the bad, to build yourself up and push past the issue. Examine the source of your lack of confidence and then use whatever tools are at your disposal to move forward.

Will Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) confidence constructive criticism http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/overcoming-a-lack-of-confidence Wed, 30 Aug 2017 13:00:00 GMT
The Many Problems with Social Media http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/the-many-problems-with-social-media The Many Problems with Social MediaThe Many Problems with Social Media
If you’re a photographer, then you’ve probably noticed by now that social media is problematic in many respects. Certainly, it can be a great marketing tool. However, it isn’t really designed to show photography at its best. It also comes with the problem of theft – images posted to social media are exceptionally easy to steal even though you may have put a watermark on them. But there are other aggravations, larger, in my opinion, than the possibility of theft. Let’s take a look at some of the issues with social media as it stands now. Perhaps there are other, better ways for you to display your photography online.


Viewing Art Takes Time

The thing about social media is that it is designed for mass consumption. Users are supposed to look at as much as possible when they are using a social media platform. Because we have limited time in our days, that leads to flipping through posts, clicking over and over, absorbing a little bit of information but not really giving ourselves time to fully take in the things that we see. We surf to Facebook or Twitter, click a few “like” buttons, make a comment or two and then we are moving on.

Imagine behaving that way at an art gallery. Would you walk in, point at the first thing you see, tell the gallery owner that you like it and then proceed to purchase it? You would not because you know that art needs to be viewed over a period of time. There is nuance to it, details to notice, meanings to learn. When you have a thousand other distractions all clamoring for your attention, it becomes very difficult to give art the time it requires.


Speaking of That “Like” Button…

Another thing that I find troubling about social media is those “like” buttons. Art, whether it is photography or any other kind of work, is a language, a way to communicate without speaking. It is meant to make people think and it is meant to start conversations. In my opinion, social media has a nulling effect on that.

The problem is, instead of starting conversations, people click that “like” button and then they are gone again. No conversation is had, at least, nothing deeper than a few comments. For the artist, there is no critique of the work. For the viewer, there is no deeper meaning.

That is why I think there are better ways to share digital images. It is far better to send a PDF to someone who is interested than to post a JPEG to an audience that may not even see the image, let alone take the time to really study it. This way, you can have a back and forth over email rather than just posting in the hopes of gaining a few likes and no other meaningful conversation beyond that.


Social Media is Not Great for Displaying Images

Photographers of yesteryear spent countless hours and untold sums of money on the darkroom, on print making, on matting and framing, everything that they needed to do in order to display an image at its best. Today, we still tend to do this sometimes but sometimes we simply display the images digitally because it is easier – and better yet, cheap or usually free.

And here again is the problem with social media. These platforms are simply not designed to display images professionally. It can be difficult to enlarge an image to full-screen displays. You may not be able to have your images displayed over your ideal background color, you will likely have ads over top parts of the images or at least in the sidebars, distracting viewers from the images. Buttons, the number of likes your post has received and so on. 

When all is said and done, no matter how powerful the imagery, it is diminished by all of the distractions. It is the difference between hanging a piece of art in a busy hallway where people simply don’t have the time or interest to enjoy it versus hanging that same piece of art in a museum, where people go specifically to look at things like that.

To that end, there are other digital mediums – the PDF, the online portfolio, a custom designed website for your photography, even a video designed like a slideshow – that will display your images to much greater effect.


Social Media Leads to Requests You Cannot Fulfill

This is a pet peeve and one that is somewhat unavoidable because everyone in this age is expected to have social media accounts. Sometimes you will get that request, particularly if you do wedding or portrait photography, the request from your client to just upload the files digitally to your social media account so that they can share and do as they like with them.

Imagine shooting a wedding in which you’ve taken 800 photographs. Do you really want to spend the time uploading the whole lot of them to Facebook so that they can be shared easily? Of course not!

Worse, social media platforms often come with image compression during the upload process and other factors that degrade the quality of the images – thus degrading your reputation potentially. On top of that, there is the issue of theft. Anyone can simply copy and paste the images or take a screenshot of them.

In my opinion, posting clients’ files on social media is much too problematic. And yet, there are some people who still assume that photographers should be willing to do this. It is much better, in my opinion, to give a DVD, a thumb drive or some other digital device to a client that wants digital copies. This is easier on the photographer, provides a better quality product to the client. And, let’s face it. No one is going to share all 800 photos from a wedding and even if they did, no one but the people directly involved in the wedding will take the time to scroll through them. The client can pick and choose their favorites to share from the digital files you give them offline.

Of course, social media isn’t all bad. It is, in fact, an incredibly valuable service for photographers and really for anyone that wants to stay in touch or take advantage of marketing opportunities. However, when it comes to displaying images on these platforms, don’t expect that they will be treated as art because the platforms themselves are not designed for people to behave as if they are in an art gallery.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) photography social media problems social media social media photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/the-many-problems-with-social-media Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Henri Cartier-Bresson: More Than the Decisive Moment http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/henri-cartier-bresson-more-than-the-decisive-moment  

Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004), French photographer (Wikipedia) When people think of Henri Cartier-Bresson, there is a very good chance that the first thing to come to mind is The Decisive Moment. Not only is that the title of a book by Cartier-Bresson but it is also the philosophy that he is most famous for. Essentially, the decisive moment that Cartier-Bresson refers to is that split-second creativity that happens when a photographer presses the shutter release at just the right time. Blink and you’ll miss it.


Cartier-Bresson’s philosophy about the decisive moment is a good one, one that is well worth your attention as a photographer. However, the decisive moment is also a bit problematic in some respects. We often find ourselves remembering Cartier-Bresson for this philosophy alone and not all of the many varied contributions that he made to photography. In the interest of learning something new, let’s take a look at some of the other things we can learn from Cartier-Bresson.


Art Was in Cartier-Bresson’s Blood

One thing that is not well known about Cartier-Bresson is that he grew up immersed in art. As a child, he had an interest in a variety of arts, due in large part to a wealthy father who urged him to learn and enjoy the more creative things in life. Cartier-Bresson’s uncle was a painter, another strong influence in his life.


Through this example, we can learn something extremely important. Not only do we all need to enrich ourselves as creatives but we also need to pass that interest on to future generations, enriching their lives with the arts. If you have children or work with young people, foster that creative spark and who knows — perhaps you will be an influence to the next great artist just as Cartier-Bresson’s father and uncle influenced him.


The True Nature of Candid Photography

1952 US edition of Cartier-Bresson's 1952 book, The Decisive Moment Cartier-Bresson was a founding father of “street photography,” which, in a nutshell, is photography on the streets. It is something meant to be real, not posed or artificial in any way, though subject material can vary between people or the objects you might see as you walk around through a city. As Cartier-Bresson created these images, he had one over-arching goal in mind: To make sure that his images were as real as they possibly could be.


He was not one to post process his images and sometimes, he didn’t even bother with cropping them. Most importantly, however, Cartier-Bresson learned how to take a true candid photo. He would often dress himself to fit in with a crowd, he was dexterous and fast, and he had a habit of covering his camera, making sure chrome was hidden and sometimes putting a cloth over it to make it less apparent that he was photographing.


None of this is to say that we all must stop post processing our images and start sneaking around city streets trying to take photos without being noticed. Rather, I think it is important to think about why Cartier-Bresson was so careful to hide what he was doing. He wanted truly candid photos, nothing artificial about them, no people in the background of the image looking directly at the cameraman. In this way, Cartier-Bresson was able to document real life as it actually happened.


Henri Cartier-Bresson's first Leica (model Leica I)

Dispense with Formalities

For a creative to fully exercise his or her creative mind, it helps to break out of the mundane. As you look at Cartier-Bresson’s life, you can see that this is exactly what he did. As a young man, he spent time working with a cubist painter. He also enjoyed the growing avant-garde scene in France. After a spell in the army, he spent time tracking boar and antelope in Africa, not because he wanted to kill and eat the animals but just because he wanted to have the experience.


You don’t have to follow Cartier-Bresson’s exact path but it does help to break with convention once in a while. Step outside of the ordinary and try something you wouldn’t normally experience. Then, with luck, you’ll be able to draw inspiration from what you learned, saw or felt.


Know When to Stop

Cartier-Bresson was a world-famous figure, renowned for photography and photojournalism — and that is why people are often surprised to find out that Cartier-Bresson quit photography. That was back in 1966 when he was still a part of the Magnum agency. He set aside both the camera and Magnum, then went back to his first love, which was sketching and painting. Despite his fame, he would not even speak at length about photography, believing that he had seen and done all that he could with the camera.


If you are like most photographers, it is unlikely that you will up and quit photography suddenly one day — although it is always a possibility! The larger lesson here is not that you should quit or that you one day will. Instead, it is important to know when to stop temporarily, to know when to take a break.


The thing about creativity is that it isn’t an endless fountain of ideas. Just like you need to sleep after a long day at work, your creativity needs a rest sometimes, too. Don’t pressure yourself into anything that you don’t feel like doing and when you feel the urge to set the camera aside, then set it aside. Come back to it when you are good and ready.


Henri Cartier-Bresson was a fascinating man living in fascinating times. There is certainly a lot more to his legacy than the decisive moment. When you have the opportunity, you’ll find that it pays to read his biography and learn his life story. Draw what lessons you will from the things that you learn — and remember that there is no single image, philosophy or trait that can come close to summing up the whole of a photographer!

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker





(Will Moneymaker Photography) candid photography decisive moment future generation henri cartier-bresson painter philosophy photojournalism post processing s street photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/henri-cartier-bresson-more-than-the-decisive-moment Wed, 16 Aug 2017 13:00:00 GMT
A Brief History of the Photographic Lens http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/a-brief-history-of-the-photographic-lens
It is surprising, with as modern as our technology is today, how old photography really is. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the history of lenses, specifically. In fact, lenses have been around for hundreds of years, even though the camera itself came much later. Let’s take a quick walk through history to show you how the lens has evolved over the ages.


The Lens Before the Camera

The first experiments with lenses are ancient, often attributed to an Arabian scientist named Abu Ali Hasan. Hasan lived more than 1,000 years ago, between 965 AD and 1040 AD. In his experiment, he looked through a glass sphere, noting how the shape of the sphere itself changed what he was looking at. Though this experiment is primitive by today’s standards, it was considered a lens nonetheless.


Hasan’s experiments led to more experiments with optics and by the 1500s, it was well known by researchers that if you applied an aperture to a lens, the things you would see through that lens would be higher quality. At the time, however, scientists were unaware of why this was. It was only later discovered that an aperture helps to prevent distortion.


The next major development to photographic lenses also came in the 1500s with the camera obscura. The camera obscura was essentially a large room with a lens in one wall. As light would shine through that lens, an image of whatever was before the lens was projected onto the wall. Developers of the camera obscura refined lens designs, creating such things as the biconvex lens. A biconvex lens is simply a glass element that curves outward on each side. Obscura designers, vintage engraving.Obscura designers, vintage engraving.Obscura designers, vintage engraved illustration. Industrial encyclopedia E.-O. Lami - 1875.

Photography is Born and the Lens Evolves

The very first camera lens, as we would know it today, was invented by the maker of the first camera, Charles Chevalier. This was shortly after Louis Daguerre invented photography in 1839. Chevalier’s lens was an achromatic landscape lens — basically, a lens with two elements that reduce chromatic aberration. This lens had two apertures only, f/14 and f/15 and in order for it to work, exposure times needed to be incredibly long, on the order of hours or days.

Lens produced and designed by Charles Chevalier in 1840 (Museo Nicéphore Niépce)

The Lens Undergoes Rapid Development

From 1839 on, the photographic lens underwent a transformation. In 1840, Chevalier developed the world’s first variable focus lens, specifically for portraiture. This lens sported an aperture of f/6, requiring shorter exposure times. This design was shared among the newly born photographic community and Max Petzval developed an even better portrait lens, also in 1840. This lens was made by Voigtlander.


After these came lenses like the panoramic lens, which was developed by Thomas Sutton, the globe lens, by Charles Harrison and the Orthoskop, developed by Petzval. For the next 100 years, lenses such as these would be developed and improved upon or scrapped depending on the faults or strengths of each.


Selectable apertures were first invented in 1858 by John Waterhouse. Unlike today’s aperture stops, the Waterhouse stops had no adjustable ring. Instead, to change the aperture, photographers used brass plates with holes of different sizes, changing plates between shots to adjust the aperture. It took about 30 years for this innovation to become the new standard — it was the 1880s when photographers began to realize that aperture affected the image’s depth of field and therefore, depth of field could be used to create various effects.

Lenses in the 1930s

Between the 1830s and the 1930s, lenses steadily grew more complex, adding more elements and more ways to adjust them. The telephoto lens was invented in 1905 in Germany, known as the Busch Bis-Telar with an aperture of f/8. However, these were all small steps compared to the rapid development of lenses in the 1930s. During the 1930s, cameras were becoming more and more common. No longer was the camera a tool used for portraiture or science but also for art. Amateurs had cameras, there were aerial cameras, movie cameras had been invented and even a few hobbyists had their own cameras to make home movies or still pictures.


With this proliferation of cameras came the proliferation of lenses. The first reversed telephoto lens was produced to create close-up images. Photographers with 35mm movie cameras could now buy zoom lenses for their cameras.


Interestingly, by 1934, the first non-glass lenses were appearing. It started with the Perspex lens, which was a plastic lens created in 1934 by KGK Syndicate. Then, Plexiglas hit the market later in that same year, the first ever lens made from acrylic. Major companies, many of which are still in operation today, like DuPont and DOW Chemical, started their own lines of cameras and lenses. By the end of the decade, it was assumed that glass lenses would become a relic of history while plastic, acrylic and Lucite lenses would be the way of the future.


World War II and the Photographic Lens

The development that brought us lenses as we know them today was World War II, or more specifically, the aftermath of World War II. You see, during the war, the Japanese economy was devastated. Afterwards, during the U.S. occupation of Japan, billions of dollars were poured into the nation’s economy. With close to half of the country’s factories destroyed — and a large population of soldiers entering a workforce that did not have the jobs to support them — the Japanese turned themselves into a technological powerhouse.


Japanese cameras and lenses became the standard that all manufacturers around the world used to forge ahead. Even today, Japan is a major force in the market for cameras and lenses. These long decades of competition are what led to the technology that we have today.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) aperture stops biconvex lens camera camera obscura charles chevalier japan john waterhouse lens louis daguerre telephoto lens waterhouse stops world war ii zoom lens http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/a-brief-history-of-the-photographic-lens Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:00:00 GMT
W. Eugene Smith: Life and Contributions to Photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/w-eugene-smith-life-and-contributions-to-photography W. Eugene Smith and Aileen, 1974Consuelo Kanaga, via Wikimedia Commons
There are many photographers who have made monumental contributions to the art. One of those photographers was W. Eugene Smith, a man who became famous for taking the photo essay and turning it into the beautiful in-depth story that we know it as today.


Born in Wichita, Kansas in 1918, Smith’s photography career began early, when he was just 15 years old, taking photographs for local newspapers. He went on to attend Notre Dame, winning a scholarship in photography that was designed exclusively for him. By 1937, he was working with Helene Sanders of the New York Institute of Photography. That same year, he also began a new job with Newsweek.


Smith favored the 35mm camera, even though at the time, many photographers and photojournalists still used medium-format cameras. Newsweek ended up firing him over this so Smith struck out on his own, becoming a freelance photographer for the Black Star agency.


From there, his skill with the camera landed him a job with Flying magazine, then by 1945, he was working for LIFE. By this time, he’d become a war correspondent, working in the Pacific theater during World War II. When the Americans went on the offensive against Japan, Smith traveled with them, documenting prisoners of war and other imagery at Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan and elsewhere.

That same year, however, Smith was gravely wounded by a mortar while photographing a battle at Okinawa. His work was put on hold for the next two years as he underwent several surgeries and recuperated. By 1947, he was back with LIFE, beginning his work on developing the photo essay genre. Smith continued his career with LIFE until 1955 when he quit the magazine to join the Magnum agency.


It was while Smith worked for LIFE and for the Magnum agency that he really developed the photo essay into what it is today. While there is so much that we can learn from the life and artistry of W. Eugene Smith, the photo essays that he created between 1945 and his death in 1978 are what really stand out, giving all of us meaningful insights as to how we can effectively tell an enthralling story through the printed photograph.


To see an example of this kind of storytelling, look no further than the essay Country Doctor. You can see some of the images here. This essay opens with a photo of a man in a suit, carrying a doctor’s bag. This one image sets the stage for the entire story. By examining it fully, you can get a sense of how the story might progress. For instance, the doctor walks through weedy grass, past a weathered fence — obviously, as the name implies, he is in the country. Behind him, the sky is dark and ominous. The doctor himself walks with shoulders slumped, an interesting expression on his face. He is tired. The more you study this image, the more you come to know the doctor and his setting before you move on with the story.


And the rest of that story is told in rich detail. Throughout various images within the essay, you get to see the doctor treating everything from bumps and bruises to major injuries and terminal conditions. The photos don’t shy away from the concern of parents or any of the things that the people within the images are feeling. Settings vary — you learn that the doctor travels from his own office to the homes of others as needed. You even get to see the doctor at home, taking calls in the middle of the night, ready to hit the road and help a patient.


Woven into the stories about each of the patients is the story of the doctor himself. You can see the concern and concentration on his face as he works with each patient. You get to see him at rest after a hard operation, drinking a cup of coffee as he leans on a counter, pensive. He works long, hard hours, a tale that is told by an image of him sleeping on his own operating table.


You can see similar themes and ideas, a similar style of storytelling, across all of Smith’s photo essays. When you have the time, I suggest you look into his Pittsburgh Project, Minamata, which documented Japanese mercury poisoning, and whatever other essays interest you. In each, you’ll find a gripping, intricate story, carefully told.

So how did W. Eugene Smith achieve such a rich and detailed story in a handful of images? There are two lessons we can take from this. Well, there are probably hundreds of lessons that we can learn from Smith’s work but there are two that I would like to focus on.


First, Smith took time, lots of it, to learn his story. He spent years overseas, documenting World War II, in the thick of the action, learning and observing. His Minamata essay was the result of two years’ worth of work, as was the Pittsburgh Project. To produce Country Doctor, Smith spent 23 days living and working with the doctor, gaining intimate knowledge of Dr. Ceriani’s life and line of work.


This is why I always say that good photography takes time. You’ll not create a photo essay, not one that features the depth and meaning of Smith’s essays, in an afternoon. To really capture the essence of a story, it takes days, weeks and sometimes even years just learning, observing and thinking.


The other key lesson to learn from Smith’s work is to not shy away from the intimate. Throughout each of his essays, you’ll find heartfelt images, images in which emotion is clear to the viewer. These are personal moments that tell us exactly what the people in the image are feeling — not artificial, posed shots that come across as melodramatic. Even in the images that don’t feature people, Smith shows you a side of things that you would normally not see. This is particularly apparent in the Pittsburgh Project, where Smith documents tumbledown buildings, filthy factories, complex networks of rail lines and more. He didn’t bother documenting Pittsburgh from the viewpoint that a visitor might see. Instead, he explored the city’s depths, its underbelly, so to speak.


I also think that it is important to point out that while Smith had a habit of documenting the darker things — war, sickness, poverty and so forth — his lessons hold true for photographers that seek to tell happier tales. A poignant, meaningful story can always be told, no matter the subject material or the emotions attached to it, if only the photographer is willing to take the time to learn his or her story fully and then document the most interesting, intimate and meaningful aspects of that story.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker








(Will Moneymaker Photography) 35mm camera country doctor life magnum minamata newsweek photo essay pittsburgh project storytelling w. eugene smith world war ii http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/8/w-eugene-smith-life-and-contributions-to-photography Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Why Spontaneity Doesn't Work http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/why-spontaneity-doesnt-work Why Spontaneity Doesn't WorkWhy Spontaneity Doesn't Work
The stereotypical image of the artist is one that spends a large portion of his or her life not producing anything. Then, when the inspiration strikes, the artist goes to work, spontaneously producing works of art. Perhaps the artist finally had the exact right sequence of thoughts. Whatever the case may be, the work is something that just came to them, spur of the moment.

With photographers, that mental image of the inspired artist is sometimes even stronger because it is assumed that all a photographer must do is keep pushing that shutter button until something magical happens. Perhaps in a fit of inspiration, the photographer figures out just how to create the perfect piece of art and with a few quick snaps, the job is done.

However, that isn’t how art works. Any art, not just photography, but painting, writing and so forth. More often than not, the greatest works are those that took the most time. They are the works that the artist spent days, weeks or even years producing.

In photography, a lot of that time is time spent waiting. Thinking, digesting, letting ideas coalesce and evolve. What’s more, there are several points throughout the photographic process where you should find the time to wait, to let the image percolate in your mind, to give yourself the time to forget about it just enough that you can look at an image more critically. Let me show you the three stages of the photographic process where I find myself simply waiting and thinking.


1. Think Before You Snap

So, you’ve had an idea for a photograph that you’d like to make, or at least you think you have an idea. Now is the time to stop yourself, before you rush out to create the photograph. Ask yourself questions. Is this really the best idea? Is there another angle that you can approach this from? Have you thought of all the best ways to utilize your gear, your knowledge and all the other tools at your disposal?

Wait, think things over, let the idea cook, so to speak. Give yourself the needed time to go over various concepts, to distil and solidify the final image in your mind before you embark on the photo trip. This prevents you from wasting time in the field, from forgetting a lens or a piece of gear that you could use to really enhance the image. Who knows, you may even decide that the idea is not worthwhile after all — or better yet, you may decide two or three days after you developed the idea that you know of a few things that can take the image you intend to make from good to amazing.


2. Take the Photo, then Wait Some More

Once you’ve actually taken the image, now is a great time to wait for a little while longer. Go ahead and load the image on your computer. Do some basic processing like exposure correction or color correction. Then, let the image sit for a few days or a week before you delve into serious post processing.

Why? Because this process allows you to do two things. First, you’ll have a little bit of time to forget about the image, which means that you can sit down and look at it with a fresh perspective later on. This is important because as artists, we tend to get attached to our ideas. It is hard to be appropriately critical of an image when it is fresh and we are still in love with everything about the concept. So, let it sit, then come back to reevaluate.

The second reason to wait before post processing is that this gives you some time to come up with additional ideas for things you can do in post. Perhaps you originally decided that you were going to create an HDR image, but after a few days of the idea percolating, you decide that the image might really be better off as black and white. Who knows, you may even realize that you could have taken the photo slightly differently, so you end up heading back out to your subject material and starting over. Whatever the case may be, allow yourself the time to have these thoughts.


3. Print the Photo and Live with It

The last step of this process comes with the completion of the photograph. Once the post processing is done, once all of the ideation is over with, when everything is complete, print the image, then display it somewhere prominently where you can observe it daily over the next few weeks. It doesn’t necessarily have to hang on a wall but put it somewhere where you will see the image day in and day out.

I even make the image my desktop background on my computer for a while. This saves printing costs and I still get to see it and think about it each day when I use my computer.

The important part of this is to get to know the image more intimately. Understand its strengths and weaknesses. Think about all of the things you could have done differently, things that might improve the image. Make mental notes of what can be done to make it better. If you have any of these kinds of ideas, act on them. Take a new photo or go back to Photoshop and process the image differently. Give it a different crop or whatever you think it needs, just so long as you have taken the time to look at the print or finished digital image and truly learn what it is that you need to do to refine the concept.

And, be aware that sometimes, you will find nothing to change. Sometimes, no ideas come to mind about how you can improve upon what you have done. That is fine — the important part is that you’ve taken the time to be introspective about the image and perhaps you can take whatever lessons you’ve learned and apply them to other photographs in the future.

Photography is largely a waiting game — waiting for the idea, waiting in the thick of the action until you get the shot, waiting until you are ready to call the image complete. Don’t rely on spontaneity to make things click into place. Instead, be prepared to wait, and be prepared to think long and hard while you wait.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker


(Will Moneymaker Photography) art artist fine art photography introspection spontaneity thinking waiting http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/why-spontaneity-doesnt-work Wed, 26 Jul 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Overcoming Assumptions http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/overcoming-assumptions Overcoming AssumptionsOvercoming Assumptions
Photography isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes there are things that we find annoying. Chief among them? Assumptions. There is something about creative professions — photography, writing, painting and so on — that allows people to jump to conclusions about what it is that you do. If you tell someone that you are an insurance agent, that you work in a factory or that you are an E.R. doctor, people understand almost immediately what it is you do.


However, when someone asks your profession and you tell them that you are a photographer, well, let’s just say that you can expect a barrage of questions, many of which you’ve probably already heard and are tired of hearing. Here are some of the questions that I often hear when people make assumptions at what I do. Give them a read and then hopefully you’ll be able to laugh with me and brush off some of the annoyance at the assumptions people make!

1. Can you photograph my wedding?

This is one of the first questions that comes up when you tell friends or family that you are a photographer — and it is one of those questions that can make any photographer’s hair stand on end. Why? For a few reasons!


Number one, wedding photography is a lot of time, effort, expense and responsibility on the photographer’s part. As your friend, I don’t want to be held responsible if you don’t quite like your photos. And sometimes, you get that rare family member who expects you to do it for free, totally unaware that one wedding shoot can turn into days upon days of work for the photographer — plus expenses, of course.


The other thing that many people don’t think about is that not all of us are wedding photographers! What if you are a landscape artist or you work in the abstract? What if your primary line of work is commercial photography that centers around products and not people. It’s like asking a professional basketball player if he could also play soccer professionally — there are some who will do both, but not very many. The bottom line is, if you don’t already happen to be a wedding photographer (or have the desire to become one) then it is unlikely you’re going to appreciate this question when it is asked.

2. Why are your photos so expensive?

This goes back to the time, money and effort. It’s a question that you’ll hear often if you work professionally as a portraitist of some kind. People see your package pricing (or however you charge your fee) and immediately get sticker shock. As annoying as it is, it’s also easy to understand where these people are coming from.


You see, they aren’t thinking about how much your camera costs or how much you pay in insurance each month for your gear. They don’t see the hours you’re spending behind a computer screen, processing the work. The time spent driving, printing, maintaining gear — it all adds up. The only thing the customer sees is you spending an hour or two taking photographs of them. So, as much as this question may get on your nerves, it may help you to look at it from the other side of the coin — and explain to the asker why it costs what it does!

3. Can I get all the original RAW photos from the shoot?

Let’s get one thing clear: The answer to this question is always NO! I always find myself wondering, why would anyone want all of the RAWs? What do they plan to do with them? And, I refuse to give them out, not because I’m being mean-spirited but because it just isn’t a good idea.


Number one, RAW images are big files. I’m not in the business of buying massive amounts of digital storage just so I can hand over all of the 800 photos I took in a given shoot. But even if that were not an obstacle, it still isn’t wise to give out RAW files. Here are some reasons why:

  • RAW files often need special software for processing and conversion. They aren’t something that an average non-photographer with shareware editing software is going to be able to work with.

  • RAWs are the unfinished work. If you’re a writer, you don’t send the roughest of a rough draft to an editor, full of misspellings, plot holes, and bad punctuation. You first polish the work and then send it on. It’s the same with photography. We first process the photos because if we don’t, then there is a good chance that we’ll lose prospective customers when unedited RAW files are shown around amongst others.

4. Can you do this thing I saw on Pinterest?!

Would you ask a surrealist painter to paint you an ultra-realistic painting? Or a sketch artist to drop his pencils and paint for you in oil? This is why it is important to meet with several photographers before making a decision. Each photographer works with his or her chosen style and if that doesn’t happen to be the latest gimmicks from Pinterest, then you should look for someone else rather than forcing it on them!

5. Can you take that picture again with my smartphone?

We, photographers, know that you are excited to share your photos as soon as possible. However, it is impossible for us to simply “take the picture again” with your phone. This is because pressing the shutter button is merely the beginning. We’ll go back to our office or studio and begin the work of post processing and polishing. If you want to share selfies as soon as possible, the photographer is not going to take photos with your phone any better than you will!

6. Where can I buy a professional camera like yours so I can take beautiful photos, too?

The asker of this question generally means no harm but it comes across as offensive anyway. Why? Because it’s not the camera that makes the photos. The camera is simply the tool that you use. Better cameras will produce slightly better work, sure. But most of the beauty in a photograph comes from elsewhere.


Think about the years of reading, training, practicing, studying that goes into learning all about composition, the manipulation of light and the manipulation of gear to make it produce what you want. The hours that you’ll spend walking, getting up very early in the morning or staying out well past any reasonable person’s bedtime just to catch that perfect shot. The time you feel you’ve wasted (even though the experience is still generally fun and memorable) when you come home empty handed — something that happens all too often.


You just can’t go to the nearest store that sells cameras and become a photographer with the swipe of a credit card.

7. Do you edit your photos?

In this day and age, I sometimes stop to wonder what this question even means. Coming from some people, it is often suspicion — the suspicion that you are taking a realistic photo and creating something unrealistic, causing the viewer, if they know the photo has been edited, to feel like you’ve lied to them.


But the actual reality is this: Of course we edit our photos! It’s impossible not to. Even photographers throughout the decades of film edited their photos by cropping, dodging, burning, pushing exposure, pulling and so forth. Photographers today do much the same thing and they aren’t doing it to lie to their audience but to produce a better-finished product — a product that is often both more beautiful and more realistic than a poorly exposed image or one where the colors aren’t right.


And that leads me to the next part of the peeve, which is this: So what if a photographer does manipulate an image past the boundaries of reality? Does it really make any difference? Is there some law against this? Is the image now deceptive or somehow not really art anymore? I don’t think so. That’s what creative license is all about. We have the ability to choose what we want to portray and how we want to portray it.


To put it in different words, would you criticize an impressionist painter because their paintings are unrealistic? You would not. There is no reason that photographers cannot do the same.


Assumptions are a difficult thing to deal with, especially when you are close to the people that are making them. Do your best to laugh about them when you can and when you can’t, then try to think about the question from the perspective of the asker. And, it doesn’t hurt to inform someone whose assumptions are wildly different from reality!

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker


(Will Moneymaker Photography) assumptions expenses gimmick pet peeve photography pinterest post processing professional camera raw photos wedding photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/overcoming-assumptions Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:00:00 GMT
Connecting Instead of Observing http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/connecting-instead-of-observing Connecting Instead of ObservingConnecting Instead of Observing
As a photographer, you may think of yourself as an observer. It’s an easy mindset to fall into because that is sort of what we do. We go through this world looking for things to photograph. We watch, we wait for the right moment, photographing the objects and actions that stand out to us. And there is often a disconnect there. We are not part of the scene. We are merely the observer of the scene.

But, immersion is important, even though it is an often overlooked step. Part of what we photograph is emotion or a particular thought. So, how can we do that if we ourselves are outside the scene looking in? When we immerse ourselves, invest our emotions into the things that we are experiencing, connect with the scenes, that is how we learn them better. That experience, that knowledge is key. It is essential if you really want to pour meaning and depth into your photography.

That connection doesn’t always come easily, however. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject, ideas that may help you make that connection with the things that you photograph.

Learn How to Work with Your Camera

Photographers, of course, need to know how their gear operates, how to make adjustments to various settings and so forth. What’s not so obvious is how you should use your camera to see. There’s only a couple of options: the viewfinder or the live view. The trick is to pick the one that works best for you.

For instance, some people prefer shooting with the live view. Why? Because to them, peering through a narrow viewfinder shuts them off from the world, breaks that connection they’ve made with the scene. Now, they are no longer a part of their surroundings, but a stranger, examining through a microscope.

On the flip side of that, other photographers prefer the viewfinder. They may find it easier to immerse themselves in this way because the viewfinder minimizes distractions. The photographer who prefers the viewfinder wishes to prioritize the things that he or she is looking at, connecting with the objects that are most relevant while blocking the distracting things, like cars passing on a nearby highway.

Experiment with both methods and choose the one that works best for you. It won’t be the same between all photographers. In fact, it may not be the same from one scene to the next. Simply be aware that the way you look at the world through your camera can affect how you connect with your surroundings.

Only Take Pictures When You are Comfortable

Some photographers would rather be alone when they are creating art. A companion, even a spouse, as well loved as they are, prove to be a distraction. Chatter intrudes and the solitary photographer loses the train of thought. Others find comfort in the companionship, finding themselves more open to experiences when others are around. They’ll bounce ideas back and forth, engage in conversation until they’ve come up with something good.

Comfort is important – not only in your choice of companions or lack thereof but also in your other choices as well. If your shoes are pinching, you’ll be less focused on what is around you. A camera bag that is too heavy proves to be annoying and exhausting. Take water, a couple of granola bars so that you can eat and drink as you need.

Whether it’s your companions, your choice of gear or anything else, think about the choices you’ll make as you prepare for a photo outing. Make yourself as comfortable as possible so that you can avoid the distractions that would normally remove you from your environment.

Spend Time Experiencing the Photograph

Let’s say that you’ve traveled to a beautiful place — a forest of massive trees, a canyon. Anywhere that interests you. Should you start snapping photos as soon as you get there so as to not waste time? Maybe not. Instead, take the time to fully experience your surroundings. Sit down against a tree trunk or a boulder, look, listen and learn. You’ll notice details you hadn’t seen before and more importantly, you’ll come to better understand how a place feels. With that knowledge, you can better capture its essence.

This holds true for most types of photography. If you’re photographing crowds of people, get into the thick of things. Don’t merely observe, separating yourself from the scene. Become part of it because that is the only way to learn and feel the things that you need to document not only shapes and colors but thoughts and feelings. This is why sports photographers are on the sidelines, not high in the stands with a telephoto lens. Closer is always better and that’s not just a rule to create better exposures. It also applies to the understanding of your subject material.

Think of it this way: An actor, when learning a new part, often finds a way to live that part before acting it. So, if an actor is practicing for a character that comes from a certain region, he might spend weeks or months in that region, living it, learning the mannerisms and the details that will bring his character to life. Learning your scene is not so different from this. You immerse yourself in it, learn what you can about it and then photograph it with this new perspective.

The main idea to remember is that the connection you make with the people, places, and things that you photograph is all important. Perhaps some of the things I’ve mentioned here will help you make that connection. But, even if not, don’t lose hope! You’ll surely find other ways to connect on a deeper level as you practice your art.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) connection distraction experience immersion live view observer photographer scene sports photographer viewfinder http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/connecting-instead-of-observing Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:00:00 GMT
Is It Art or Just a Gimmick? http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/is-it-art-or-just-a-gimmick Is It Art or Just a GimmickIs It Art or Just a Gimmick
So many discussions surrounding photography come back to that old chestnut: What is art, exactly? It is impossible to define art and in fact, I would say that it is against the very nature of art to try and define it. However, there are a few things that seem to fall less in the category of art, mainly because these things don’t have thought, vision or inspiration behind them.

Often, these things are merely techniques or methods that have become so overused that they are now a gimmick. In other words, artists merely use a particular technique to create something that seems unusual or shocking at first glance but upon closer inspection, the actual work seems to have no meaning or it doesn’t move a broad selection of viewers to think more deeply on the “art” that they are looking at.

The difference between art and gimmicks that are mimicking art are difficult to understand, even for people who have been enmeshed with the trade for decades. Allow me to explore this topic more deeply and perhaps we can all come away with some insights as to when something is actually artistic and when a work is just using a gimmick to draw a quick look.

Does the Technique Add to the Art?

In the photography world, there is a subset of techniques that have the reputation of being gimmicky. This includes things like selective coloring, HDR photography, sepia and monochrome imagery, desaturation, specialty filters and more.

Now, let me just say this: There is no such thing as a technique that is, by default, a gimmick.

Rather, the techniques I listed above are examples of techniques that some photographers will overuse or use inappropriately in order to create something flashy, something that stands out at first glance, but on closer examination, is otherwise meaningless.

Let’s use selective coloring as our example. When this technique first hit the photography scene, photographers everywhere experimented with it, trying to learn ways to put selective color to work in order to draw more meaning out of an image. And there are a great many selectively colored photographs out there that are beautiful works of art. However, the problem was that the technique became something of a trend for a few years and suddenly everyone was applying it to their photographs willy-nilly, without considering whether or not the technique really added anything to the image. At the height of the selective coloring craze, most photographs that made use of the technique, were not something that I would have considered art. Instead, they felt more like a quick and easy bid to gain attention.

The same goes for HDR photography. Our longstanding struggle, as photographers, is to document real life as we see it with our eyes. Unfortunately, camera equipment is not always capable of catching a broad range of lighting in one image which is why, historically, we would use multiple exposures with film or neutral density filters – both attempts to create a balanced exposure in somewhat extreme lighting conditions. HDR gave us a solution to that problem, finally giving us a relatively easy way to display an image with a high dynamic range.

But again, at the height of the HDR trend, the technique gained that reputation for being gimmicky. Why? Because photographers were using it not to expand the dynamic range of an image but instead to create gaudy colorful images, images that looked needlessly over-sharpened, images that had strange halos around prominent objects. The technique was not necessary to display the contents of these images at their best. It became a way to take otherwise ordinary subject material and turn it into something that wasn’t necessarily meaningful, but nonetheless grabbed your attention through the use of wild colors and other strange effects.

That is why I maintain that there are instances when these techniques are used to great artistic effect. But, these are the instances when the technique really adds something to the photograph, when the photograph just wouldn’t have as much meaning or depth without it. Used in this way, no technique is a gimmick.

Are You Following a Trend Because It’s Trendy?

I’ve already touched on the idea of trends in photography but I think that it is a subject requiring deeper examination because, to me, trendy things and artistry are almost opposite concepts. Photography is supposed to be a personal artistic expression. How are you expressing yourself, your original and unique ideas, when you follow a trend? By following a trend, you are expressing the ideas of whoever started that trend.

For example, one thing that is popular, at least in certain areas, is “old fashioned” photography. These images typically feature something old, like a car, a battered chair or a distressed sign. The colors in these images are de-saturated or given a distinct cast, often in blue or sepia tones even though they may not be monochromatic. The idea, I gather, is to mimic the colors of films like Kodachrome, but many of these photographs don’t quite look like Kodachrome or another of the famous old films.

Can an image like those I’ve described be considered art? Of course they can, provided that they are made with the idea of provoking thought, providing an intensely satisfying visual experience, or conveying some meaning. However, if you are simply following a trend because that is the current hot item at craft fairs and in home décor stores, then perhaps it isn’t art. Then it becomes more akin to mass production, something that is common enough to be considered a trope, a gimmick.

Art is original and trends, well, trends are the opposite. Trends are unoriginal because everyone is doing them.

The most important thing to take away from this discussion, after everything that I’ve said, is that there is nothing wrong with using tactics that have a reputation for being gimmicky and there is nothing wrong with creating art that just so happens to fit with a trend. When dealing with art, we cannot generalize so much that we dismiss legitimate works of art. The problem is not with the trends and the tactics but with the intent. If it is your intent to create something meaningful, then you have created art. But, if it is your intent to create something to make a quick buck, without a lot of thought, simply because the subject material or techniques you have used are a popular aesthetic, then you’ll need to consider for yourself whether or not the works you have created can be considered, in every sense of the word, art.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) art desaturation fine art photography gimmick high dynamic range kodachrome selective color sepia technique trends http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/7/is-it-art-or-just-a-gimmick Wed, 05 Jul 2017 12:54:10 GMT
Analyzing the Abstract http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/analyzing-the-abstract
If you’re a photographer, then at one time or another, you have probably felt the urge to create abstract art. It’s an alluring genre, one that draws you in because it allows you to express creativity to the utmost. But among a general viewing audience, abstract art of any kind, whether it’s photography or another medium, just isn’t popular. In galleries, it hangs on the walls unsold for long stretches of time. In museums, people scratch their heads at it and move on. Artists are drawn to it, but a great many other people are willing to give it a pass. Why? Let’s analyze abstract art to learn some of the reasons behind its lack of popularity.

Abstract Images are Incredibly Subjective

So many photographs are of landscapes, people, buildings, pretty flowers or trees, still life images — they are based on something concrete, something that is easy to recognize and thus easier to interpret. With abstract art, the artist is working, well, in the abstract. It is a very personal expression of creativity, one that is unique to the artist that created it. When you create a piece of abstract art, you are essentially saying that in your opinion, this is what makes an image art. The things that you find to be beautiful and interpretable in their own strange way are very likely to come across as odd and indiscernible to the next person who looks at your imagery.

Abstract Art has a Bad Reputation

Have you ever walked the halls of an art museum and overhead someone talking about an abstract painting? “What is this? The artist just splattered paint everywhere! This isn’t art!” Abstracts often come across that way, as something arbitrary, easy to produce. The uninitiated may look at abstract imagery and just see a pretty wash of colors or a random jumble of shapes and assume that the artist wasn’t trying. This is because it is hard to see what went into the image before it was ever committed to paper or canvas. The planning, the hours, days, weeks or months of thought. The selection of colors and their placement. Perhaps the artist has an entire garage or studio full of paint-splattered canvasses because he or she worked and worked until it finally came out perfectly, at least in the opinion of the artist.

The viewer sees none of this. The viewer sees the shapes, colors, splatters and so on and thinks, “This looks like the kind of thing I made in preschool art class.” This ties in with my first point: Without a concrete subject, something to anchor the viewer in the image, the viewer has no idea what to make of this abstraction and thus assumes that the artist never intended the work to be meaningful. The common assumption goes counter to this — art should be meaningful, therefore, the viewer assumes, if this work is not meaningful, then it is not art. It is arbitrary.

How Do You Judge an Abstract?

This is something that everyone struggles with, even aficionados of abstract photography. How can you judge an abstract work? In a photograph that isn’t abstract, you can pore over the image looking for technical faults or you can enjoy how the subject and other elements are arranged. It is easy to look at a portrait or a verdant landscape and appreciate the beauty while making a judgement on technical or artistic merits.

But abstract photography often dispenses with rules entirely. Did the photographer mean for this wash of color here or for the white balance to look so off? Is that element supposed to be blurry or not? Abstract images are hard to judge according to conventional rules and thus, they are very easy to dismiss unless you like the image on a personal level.

Art is Complicated

Finally, there are a great many people, maybe even a majority of people, that prefer art to be uncomplicated. And there is nothing wrong with that. Many people don’t want to walk past the art in their living room and ponder the deeper meaning of life. Instead, they’d rather see a sweeping vista or wildlife playing in the forest instead of being burdened with the idea that there is some deeper significance that they are missing. As much as we photographers and art lovers might obsess over meanings, for a lot of people, it just isn’t that important. Many prefer art that is beautiful, simple and easy to enjoy.

My Thoughts on Abstracts

For these reasons and more, abstract photography just isn’t as popular as other types of photography. The genre has gained a bit of ground over the years, particularly among people who love modern aesthetics. However, it is easy for someone who isn’t that into art to simply not “get” an abstract image.

However, none of this is to say that you should not bother with abstract photography or that you should find yourself discouraged. I simply mean to say that you should be prepared for the idea that an audience broader than your artist friends may not have the same appreciation for the work. If you want to create abstract art, I say go for it — it is an incredibly rewarding experience.

There is one thing you should take to heart, though.

Don’t produce cheap abstracts. What is a cheap abstract? It’s the kind of image that commonly pops up at craft vendors or on department store shelves. In other words, it is just a mass-produced image that wasn’t made with much thought about composition or meaning. These are the types of images in which someone with a camera saw something unusual and decided to snap a photo and move on. In the world of painters, cheap abstracts truly are just splattered paint with no thought other than a paycheck behind them.

True abstract imagery takes time, lots of it. It isn’t meant to be easy. When people make it easy, they cheapen the genre, degrading the work of those who have devoted inordinate amounts of time to it. Worse, they contribute to the idea that abstract images are not art at all.

I think that if you go about abstract photography in this way, by putting serious effort into creating a satisfying visual experience, by taking the time to think and feel the emotions you are trying to portray, then your art will be much more well-received than mass-produced abstractions. And sure, there will be people who won’t “get” the image, but that is true of abstract images no matter how much effort is put into them. It’s the nature of the best, in this instance.


That is why most photographers who pursue abstract photography create abstracts for themselves alone. It isn’t the goal to create an image that other people like. The goal is to create something that you like. If you like an abstract image, then certainly there will be others out there who like it, too.

Will MoneymakerWill MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) abstract art abstract photography complex gallery mass produced museum planning simplicity subject http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/analyzing-the-abstract Wed, 28 Jun 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Tips and Tricks for Photographing Neon Lighting http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/tips-and-tricks-for-photographing-neon-lighting Tips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon Lighting
Last week, I talked about my trip to the American Sign Museum, an interesting destination packed with the world’s most beautiful neon lighting. Hopefully, the history lesson I gave you provided some inspiration. Now I think it’s time to talk about how to photograph neon lighting. These tips and tricks can be applied to other kinds of lights but for now, I’d like to focus on neon lights because they are a beautiful, colorful part of our history.


Be Prepared for Low Light

It sounds strange, I know, that in a museum full of neon lights, you would run into a low light situation. However, neon lights (as well as other types of lights, like indoor incandescent lighting) are not meant to provide bright illumination. Instead, these lights are supposed to be colorful, eye-catching, not too bright to look at — just enough light to provide ambience in the space that they are displayed. In the American Sign Museum, in particular, it costs extra to bring along a tripod and I didn’t want to be burdened with extra gear. Instead, I used some other tricks to capture the lights despite the low luminosity.

First, I found myself bracing often to take photos. Bracing is a technique that you can use when you don’t have access to a tripod or a monopod. To brace, all you need to do is find a way to support or stabilize yourself so that you can minimize shakiness at slower shutter speeds. Lean against a wall, prop yourself on the back of a chair or ask a friend for a steady shoulder to lean on. It depends on the person and the capabilities of your camera’s image stabilization, but in general, you should consider bracing at shutter speeds between 1/100 to 1/60 and lower. In fact, you should consider practicing ahead of time so that you know which shutter speeds require you to brace and which are slow enough to make a tripod a necessity.

Another thing you’ll find in situations like this is that it really helps if your camera can handle low light situations at high ISOs without producing a lot of noise. I found myself several times shooting at ISOs of 25,000 or greater. On top of that, make sure that you have a good noise removal tool at your disposal. For the neon light images, I used Luminar to reduce noise.

Tips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon Lighting


Now is The Time for Automatic Settings

It’s hard to let your camera do all the work. We photographers often find ourselves unsatisfied with full automatic controls because the art making process doesn’t feel complete unless you’ve carefully chosen shutter speed, aperture, ISO and all the other necessary settings. However, in a place like the American Sign Museum, automatic settings are your friend. In a place like this, the lighting can change with every step you take and if there are flashing lights, then it is changing between each shot. If you stop to adjust your settings between each and every shot, you are likely to spend more time fiddling with your camera than creating artwork. Turn that dial to “Aperture Priority” and let go — let your camera decide the settings so that you can focus on composition and most importantly, enjoying the experience.

Tips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon Lighting

The same goes for white balance. Now, if you are in a place with consistent lighting — incandescent, fluorescent, what have you — then you can set your camera up to achieve the white balance you need. And, if you are going for a certain set of colors or a certain look, then, by all means, set your white balance to get that look, if it helps. But when you are in a setting that features lights in red, yellow, blue, green and every other color imaginable, then, here again, you’ll find that the decision-making process is better left up to the camera rather than attempting to make adjustments between each shot.

Tips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon Lighting


What about Post Processing?

For this type of project, I cannot recommend Adobe Lightroom enough. When you rely on automatic settings and creative ways to brace yourself, you will likely take a lot more photos than usual just to make sure that you get a nice collection of great images to work with. Software that can handle images in bulk will make your life much easier.

To do this project, I started by importing the images into Lightroom so that I could flag those that I liked. Then, I left them for a few days so that I could sort my thoughts out, come back and look at the flagged images with a more objective eye. After that, I did a basic processing routine, making adjustments to exposure where necessary, and boosting or lowering highlights — a task that you will likely need to do a lot when photographing lights of any kind.

With neon lights, color is just as important as exposure. Don’t hesitate to go over each image, boosting the saturation of certain colors, enhancing the overall vibrancy or making other color corrections as needed to really make the lights pop. You may also choose to selectively sharpen some of the most important elements of each image. When all of this is done, move on to noise removal, if necessary.

Finally, the most important part: cropping. In a place like the American Sign Museum, there are innumerable elements that you can’t physically move out of the frame and believe me — those distracting elements will make their way into your images. Fortunately, modern technology makes it easy to crop out those distracting bits and pieces. Take your time on this task, trying different orientations, aligning the most important elements with various compositional rules and removing objects that are making their way into the edges of the image. Most importantly, go about your cropping with the idea that you are telling a story in each image or across a series of images. This mentality will help you determine what needs to stay and what needs to go in each photograph.

If you ever have an opportunity to do a project like this, keep these tips in mind. Hopefully, the things that I have shared will help you enjoy the experience even as you capture a beautiful series of images that you can enjoy for years to come.

Will Moneymaker




Tips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon LightingTips and Tricks for Photographing Neon Lighting

(Will Moneymaker Photography) american sign museum automatic settings bracing color correction exposure adjustment neon lighting post processing saturation selective sharpening white balance http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/tips-and-tricks-for-photographing-neon-lighting Wed, 21 Jun 2017 12:00:00 GMT
A Brief History of Neon Lighting http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/a-brief-history-of-neon-lighting
I recently had a fantastic opportunity to visit the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati — a fascinating experience, let me tell you. I spent a good amount of time taking photographs and I’d like to share with you everything that I learned. First, however, because these signs are so interesting, and because there is a lot of history behind them, I’d like to share that history with you. Perhaps this will help you with inspiration should you ever find yourself photographing neon signs.


The Art of Neon Lights Started as a Science

Much like photography, which started with scientists experimenting with chemicals and sunlight, the neon light started with scientists experimenting with different types of lighting. The precursor to neon lighting was invented in 1855, the Geissler tube, which was named for Heinrich Geissler. Geissler was both a physicist and a glass blower. These tubes were used in experiments with electricity and different kinds of gases. Essentially, scientists were trying to find out what happened when electricity was applied to the gas contained in a Geissler tube.

American Sign Museum in Cincinnati American Sign Museum in Cincinnati American Sign Museum in Cincinnati


The Discovery of Neon Gas

The invention of neon lights, back in the 1800s, was hindered by one thing: The gas neon had not yet been discovered. That discovery came in 1898, by M. W. Travers and William Ramsey. Neon is an incredibly rare gas, present in air at rates of about 1 part per 65,000. In order to collect neon, researchers needed to use a process called liquefaction, which collects gases that are then separated in another process called fractional distillation.

From that point, it would still be a little while before the first true neon light was invented. Georges Claude was the very first scientist to experiment with neon gas in a Geissler tube. Claude was French, an inventor, engineer, and chemist by trade. He first applied electricity to sealed neon gas in 1902, thus creating the very first neon light. He continued to refine his design, and on December 11, 1910, he put his first neon light on display in Paris.


Neon Lighting Becomes an Art

Claude’s first light, much like the first cameras, wasn't anything fancy. It would take a couple more years of developing the technology in order to turn these lights into the beautiful neon lights we know today. Originally, neon lighting was red, a very distinct color, so Claude and others worked on ways to create lights of other colors.

Meanwhile, Claude set about trying to market his neon lights. In 1912, he sold the world’s first piece of neon advertising, a sign for a barber shop in Paris. Then, in 1913, he sold a sign that spelled “Cinzano” in massive 3 1/2-foot letters.

Claude knew he was on to something so he filed for a United States patent in 1911. He also started his own company, Claude Neon Lights, Inc. Over the years, he developed both red and blue lights, one of which rested at the entrance of the Paris Opera House.

In 1923, Claude’s big breakthrough came. An auto dealer in Los Angeles by the name of Earle C. Anthony ordered two signs for his dealership. Each sign read “Packard” after the cars he sold, costing him about $24,000, a sum that would be worth more than $300,000 today.

With that, the neon sign as we know it today was born. Georges Claude became famous, and neon signs were common everywhere by the mid-1900s. Claude passed away in 1960, but not before that most famous of neon cities, Las Vegas, was already starting to roll out its bright lights.


Neon Lighting and Photography

The invention of neon lighting parallels the invention of photography in so many ways. Both art forms started as a science experiment and both went through decades of work before becoming a commercially available tool that businesses and individuals the world over use. Just as photography went through a period of development that brought us the color image, so too did neon lighting. Originally, these lights were red, then red and blue. Later on, other gases were added to these tubes to create the beautifully colored lights that we know and love today.

The most interesting parallel, I think, is that both art forms are based solely on light. Neon lighting is the production of light in beautiful colors and shapes. Photography is the capturing of that light, the recording of those shapes and colors. Perhaps that is why it feels so natural to create art centered around these lights because the two mediums complement each other so well.

American Sign Museum in Cincinnati American Sign Museum in Cincinnati American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend that you visit the American Sign Museum and capture the beautiful lights yourself. If you won't find yourself in Cincinnati any time soon, then in the meantime, perhaps you could start your own project based around photographing lights. If you know of businesses that still use neon lights to advertise in your area, check them out — you may be able to come away with interesting artwork. Even if you don't know of a good place to see these lights in all their beauty, you could focus your efforts on other types of lights, like candles, chandeliers or interesting lamps. No matter what you decide to do, hopefully, what I've shared here today inspires you to create something amazing.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker




(Will Moneymaker Photography) cinzano color fine art form georges claude heinrich geissler neon neon lighting photography science http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/a-brief-history-of-neon-lighting Wed, 14 Jun 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Never Stop Experimenting http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/never-stop-experimenting Never Stop ExperimentingNever Stop ExperimentingNever Stop Experimenting
It is so easy to stick with the thing that we know works. In fact, that’s why photographers have all of these rules, like the Rule of Thirds or the rule to never crop a portrait subject at the knees or elbows. And don’t get me wrong — those rules are a good thing. They're a set of standards that photographers adhere to for a reason, because in most instances, abiding by those rules will produce a better photograph than if you go against them.

But, sometimes that strict adherence to the rulebook leads the best of us into a creative rut. We must never forget that experimentation is paramount. Experimentation is the reason why photography went from science to art and it is the reason why we have advanced as far as we have. The experimentation of photographers, engineers and researchers throughout the decades is why we can use DSLRs, it’s why we have a broad base of well-known techniques to use — and experimentation is what will drive us into the future, helping us to create new gear, new techniques and at the end of the day, brand new artwork.

And that is why I call on all photographers to experiment. Keep experimenting and perhaps you will be the next photographer to create something that all of us can use. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas!


Experimenting with Elements

One way to experiment with photography is to experiment with individual elements of a photograph. The subject, or a background that you like, a particular color, a detail that you would like to include. Narrow your scope down to that one element and then see what you can do with it. I see many photographers creating projects centered around one particular thing and the idea works for them because it allows these photographers to narrow in on something new and creative rather than shuffling through a large jumble of ideas. One photographer may create daily images centered around a child’s toy, taking the photographs from the toy’s perspective while another may spend weeks collecting images centered around shades of blue.

In fact, this is one reason why photo-a-day projects work so well. When you are determined to take one photo each day for a year, you have no choice but to let go of your grand plans. There just is not time to sit down and hash out the details for a new photograph every single day. Instead, the photographer has to work on the fly. See something interesting, take your photo for the day. In this way, you learn to really focus on one element, or a small group of elements, and experiment with them until the image clicks.

Of course, you don't have to do an entire year in photographs if you don't want to, but it does help to periodically do a study on one of your elements. By study, I mean that you should choose your element and then work with it until you feel that it has run its course. Examine the element from all angles, if it is a subject or a background piece. If it is a color, a lighting style or something else, then apply your chosen element or theme to whatever you can think of. Experiment with your element and you will certainly end up creating something interesting.


Experimenting with Gear

Experimentation doesn't have to happen within the photograph. You can experiment in a wide variety of ways with your gear. Gear experimentation is why photographers love gaffer’s tape so much — because one day, someone got tired of tripping over lighting cords or not being able to hang a backdrop, so they grabbed a roll of tape and used it to solve the problem. Always ask yourself the question, in what way can I use the tools that I have differently?

Let’s say, for instance, you are out in the field, with a couple of portable flashes, wireless triggers and light stands to mount everything on. What can you do to modify your lighting? It depends on the tools that you brought along, like umbrellas or what have you. And it also depends on how much you are willing to experiment and what bits and pieces you can scavenge to aid you in your experiment. For example, in a pinch, photographers have been known to fashion Pringles cans, straws or corrugated cardboard into DIY emergency snoots. They’ve put sheets of paper or even frosted plastic from milk jugs over their lights as a diffuser. If you happen to have plastic shopping bags, particularly in colors other than white — tan or blue, for example — then you can fashion yourself a way to warm up or cool down the light from the flash.

Reversing rings for macro photography were born from this same sort of ingenuity. Someone got the bright idea to mount a lens backwards and discovered an entirely new way to create extreme close up photographs. Most of the tools that we have at our disposal came about because someone was willing to experiment, to try new things.


As a final thought, I want you to remember that there are still more things to experiment with besides gear and elements within images. Post processing is one avenue. Experiment by combining prose with images, or by trying as many different genres of photography as interest you. That is how we innovate, and it is in fact, the only way we can innovate. Everything that we have today, even things outside of photography, all come from someone, or from a group of people, who were just daring enough to try something new. That same enterprising spirit will lead you into trying new methods, new types of photography and most importantly, into creating works of art that you would not normally have dreamed up.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) art dslr elements experimentation gaffer's tape lighting photo-a-day reversing ring science study subject theme http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/never-stop-experimenting Wed, 07 Jun 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Teaching Children the Wonders of Photography (Free eBook) http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/teaching-children-the-wonders-of-photography-free-ebook Teaching Children PhotographyTeaching Children PhotographyTeaching Children Photography Photography is a fascinating hobby that can be started at an early age. There are no limits, other than the ability to hold and aim a camera at a subject and press the button. And from this small beginning, children can learn and experience a whole new world of wonder and excitement.

Now you can help your child to understand all the aspects of this amazing hobby through Teaching Children the Wonders of Photography, which contains chapters which includes:

  • Showing children how the basics
  • Encouraging them to take lots of photos
  • The basics of composure
  • Using lighting
  • Shutter speeds, aperture and ISO
  • Learning to be a comfortable photographer
  • And much more…

Whether you are teaching your own child or whether you are a volunteer who works with groups of children, teaching them about photography is a wonderful way to interact and spend time together.

And with Teaching Children the Wonders of Photography you have a ebook which is suitable for complete beginners who have never held a camera before.

Get your free copy now and start sharing your knowledge with the next generation of budding photographers.

I've set a minimum contribution to FREE and you're welcome to give a donation. Thank you so much!

(Will Moneymaker Photography) Teaching Children Photography free ebook free ebook on photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/6/teaching-children-the-wonders-of-photography-free-ebook Mon, 05 Jun 2017 22:42:30 GMT
Change is Good http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/change-is-good Change is GoodChange is Good

Change is a factor that permeates every part of our lives. Everything changes as the days, weeks, months and years go by. Many people, maybe even most people, are resistant to change, at least to certain types of it. In photography, for instance, change can sometimes feel aggravating. Who wants to learn all about a new camera system when the one you are already using once worked just fine?

The problem with resistance to change is this: If we all refused to change, then we'd still be lugging around giant cameras like photographers did more than a century ago. We’d be printing our fuzzy monotone images on sheets of metal. Maybe we'd never have moved on to color photography.

And that is why we embrace change. Because even though it is scary sometimes, it is generally for the better. In photography, change means innovation, learning and moving forward. When I stop to think about how far we’ve come since the first photographic image was produced, I’m somewhat awed by the progress. And then I think, what revolutions, what changes, will we see in the future? Will the photographers of 100 years from now look back at our primitive DSLRs, lenses, post processing and printing processes with the same sense of awe that we feel when we stop to reminisce? Possibly so.

But that’s beside the point. Let’s take a look at the ways that our art changes so that we can hopefully come away with a greater appreciation for new and different things.


Cameras Change

If you're like most photographers, you love the camera that you currently use and all the rest of the gear that goes along with it. After all, one of the most essential parts of finding the right system is finding one that you can use with relative ease. However, one day, that camera, or your favorite lens, or some other piece of gear will break (or become obsolete) and you'll be forced out to go and buy something new. Something that you will likely end up enjoying just as much as what you have now, but that you will find irritating as you try to learn the new controls and quirks of the gear.

The thing is, that newer piece of equipment? It will almost always be better than the original thing that you had. If it’s a new camera, you’ll probably have better resolution, the ability to shoot noise-free at higher ISOs or a greater range of features that you can put to work in the field. New flashes will likely give you, even more, control over lighting than your old flashes and new lenses might have wider apertures. In the end, though you may miss your old pieces of equipment, though you are frustrated with the idea of learning how this new and different thing works, the change is almost always positive.


Techniques Change with Trends

Technique is another big part of photography that is subject to rapid change. With each new trend comes the potential for a new technique that is added to our repertoires. For example, back in the old days, flashes produced whatever color lighting they produced and that was that. If it was yellow hued or greenish, that’s just what photographers had to deal with. Then, as the trend of flash photography grew, manufacturers began refining the hardware, producing flashes with consistent, complementary lighting.

Then a whole new trend came along. Photographers began modifying their flashes with whatever they had on hand, sometimes with materials like colored gels that are used in stage lighting. Today, photographers can buy color filters or gels specifically made because of the trend of colored lighting that went on to become a technique so many of us still use.

When you stop to really examine all of the various techniques that we use today, I think you'll find that they all started with someone that was willing to do something different. By themselves changing the way they did things, they started trends that took off and become mainstays for the photographers of the future.


The Meaning Changes

In the 1800s and early 1900s, it was a common practice among people with the means to afford it to create post-mortem photographs. Bodies of loved ones were prepared, dressed and posed, usually sitting or lying down. Then photographs were taken, printed and given to the surviving family, who cherished those photos as fond remembrances of their lost loved ones.

Today, we look at reproductions of these images in an entirely different way. These aren’t fond remembrances. They weren’t even people that we knew or were related to in some way. Now, the images feel chilling, grim. They're a stark reminder of mortality, they are uncomfortable to look at yet oddly fascinating in a morbid way.

So it goes for all photographs. The meanings can and likely will change throughout the years. Even without the passage of time, the meanings will likely change depending on who is looking at the photograph. And, that’s a good thing. Photography, and most other art forms for that matter are mediums meant to be thought provoking. The fact that these meanings change with time or with different audiences means that the images are not stale. Their effect has not worn off. Instead, they are provoking new and unique thoughts every time someone stops to ponder them.


I, for one, am glad that photography is not static. With each new thing, we gain more knowledge, better technology, improved methods, and techniques. Change is what keeps our viewers interested and it is what makes the art come alive. If it helps you, keep this in mind the next time you’re feeling frustrated with something new.

Will MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) advancement change color photography colored lighting dslr flash photography frustration improvement meaning monotone new gear post-mortem photography progression techniques trends http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/change-is-good Wed, 31 May 2017 13:00:00 GMT
How Stephen King's Methodology Applies to Photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/how-stephen-kings-methodology-applies-to-photography How Stephen King's Methodology Applies to PhotographyHow Stephen King's Methodology Applies to Photography


Stephen King’s On Writing is one of those required books that I had to read in cinematography class many years ago. While this book talks about the craft of writing, the pages are filled with insights that are applicable to just about everything. We photographers may not necessarily care so much about such things as grammar, dialogue and other technical elements that go along with the written word. It is in King’s methodology that the real value is for photographers — and truly, creatives of all types.

I know I’ve talked about the creative process previously. It’s a subject that comes up quite frequently because frankly, there is no one size fits all answer. Your creative process will be different from mine and from everyone else, too. But there is value in looking at the creative process of others because it helps us to pick up new ideas and develop our own individualized process from there.

King’s methodology is one that is full of ideas and inspiration for photographers. You see, when King writes, he doesn’t sit down and outline a full story before he starts to flesh out the book. He doesn’t have a book in his mind, from start to finish, waiting for the right time to be committed to paper. Instead, he starts with one scene. In this scene, he has all the things a scene requires — the characters, the setting, the dialogue and exposition. But it’s still just a scene, with no backstory surrounding it, no events leading up to or following it. It is just one piece that will eventually become a moment in the broader timeline of the story. It is only after this scene is completed that he builds on it, adding the rest of the scenes to create a book.

How can that possibly translate to photography? At first glance, it seems like it doesn’t. That’s because each image that we create is a scene. So, if you tell a photographer to try creating one scene, he’ll be puzzled by what you’re asking him to do. Likely, that’s what he was already doing. And sometimes, creating that scene is easy. The creative ideas are flowing and we know the where, when and how of the photograph. Everything just falls into place. Other times, we're stuck, without a direction, unable to create the scene that becomes the final image. King’s methods can help you get through this and applying them to photography is simpler than you might imagine.

Think of King’s creative process in terms of how it relates to a finished book. That first scene that he creates? It might only be a few paragraphs or it could be an entire chapter. Whatever shape or size it takes, it is just one small part of the finished book — one small element, if you will.

Therein lies the way that we photographers can put King’s method to work. In much the same way that King’s scene is one element that works with the rest of the story as a whole, you can choose one element that works with the rest of a photograph to create a whole image.

What I mean by that is this: Rather than trying, as we so often do, to plan an image completely from start to finish, envisioning the setting, the subjects, all of the other details and even elements like lighting, color and composition, instead, when you find yourself stuck, just let all of that go. Sometimes, when we find ourselves in a creative rut, the problem is that we're just trying to juggle too many elements at once and there seems to be no satisfactory way to smash them all together. Choose one element to work with, distill your ideas to one small part of the image and let the rest of the story flow from that.

What element should you chose as the first piece of the puzzle before you? It could be anything. Perhaps you want to create something that involves a bird. Now you can use that element to start adding other elements. Think about the types of birds you might encounter. Which ones would you like to capture? What kinds of habitats do these birds live in, or what kinds of activities do these birds engage in? Can you find supporting elements for the final image in those lines of thought?

If you want to create an image featuring a crow, perhaps you should capture one that is playing with a shiny object or using twigs as tools. Or if you want to create an image of a parrot, perhaps you should capture him at play with a favorite toy or when the parrot speaks the words that his owners have taken the time to teach him. In this way, you can choose your one element and then start thinking about how that element relates to the rest of the story you could create, thus letting the image form organically from that one starting point.

Of course, your starting element doesn't have to be a bird. It doesn't even need to be the main subject of the image. Your element, the piece that you will build the rest of the story around, could be a setting, like your favorite woodland hideaway. It could be a type of lighting, like the golden rays shining through evening clouds. It could even be a color. What happens if you decide to make purple the central theme of the image? What kind of elements can you pull together that fit with this color to tell a story in your image?

As you can see, it is possible to apply Stephen King’s methods to your own work. The method is a simple one, when you get right down to it. Start with one small part of the project and then let your creativity branch out to create the whole.

Will MoneymakerWill MoneymakerWill Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) books creative process element on writing scene stephen king storytelling http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/how-stephen-kings-methodology-applies-to-photography Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Determination is the Key to Photography http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/determination-is-the-key-to-everything Determination is the Key to EverythingDetermination is the Key to Everything
There are all kinds of things we can talk about when it comes to photography. Multitudes of techniques, basic to advanced camera controls, compositional rules, lighting, gear and even the artistic eye. There is post processing, software, file storage and all of the other technical details. You can boil it down further and talk about papers and inks. There are many different elements and all of them work together to create works of art in much the same way that a jigsaw puzzle’s pieces work together to form a whole. Without one element, one piece, the whole picture loses something.

But there is one part of photography that is very rarely talked about even though this piece of the puzzle is the key to everything. That element is determination. Gear, techniques, knowledge – these aren’t the things that get you out and learning, thinking and creating. In fact, you could have the gear of your dreams along with an entire library of knowledge at your fingertips but without determination, it would all be for nothing. Determination is the driving force behind everything that we do. Let me show you how determination is key to a long and successful photographic career.


Determined to Fight Through a Creative Block

What does a successful photographer do when he or she is simply out of ideas? You take pictures anyway because you are determined to create something, no matter what that something might be. The location, the subject material and all of the other variables matter less when you’re stuck in a rut. What matters is that you go out and do. Sometimes, the sheer will to go out and take photos despite a lack of direction is all you need to get the creative ideas flowing again. 

So, when you find yourself without a plan, make up your mind to go capture something anyway. Once you find yourself out and examining the world with the photographer’s eye, surely something will capture your interest. 


Determined to Never Stop Learning

It is impossible to come to a point in your career where you can say that you have learned all there is to learn. In fact, a photographer that has this attitude quite clearly has not learned much at all about this art. In order to continue to be successful, you’ll need to keep an open mind, ready and willing to take in new information for the rest of your career.

The fact is, there are hundreds, thousands of well-recognized photographers and authors out there, all with something of their own to offer. You’ll have a lifetime of experiences to learn from — and many lifetimes of everyone else’s experiences, too. With this wealth of raw information, it is impossible to learn it all.

What’s more, no photographer, not even those leading the way on the cutting edge, has learned the things that photographers of the future will know. In the years and decades to come, new discoveries will be made and new technology will be released. You’ll have to learn about all of these things if you want to keep up with everyone else. Learning is a process that should never stop because that is how advancements are made.


Determined to Improve

What about the photographer who says to himself, “This is it! I’ve improved to the point that I can no longer do better than I am right now.” Well, that photographer is in a predicament, possibly because arrogance has led him to believe that he has reached some kind of pinnacle when in actuality, that arrogance will eventually lead the photographer down a stale path of mediocrity. Or, perhaps the situation is grim, the photographer is frustrated and fed up because he feels that he has hit some kind of artificial wall, a roadblock to his progress. 

This is why you must always carry with you the determination to improve. No photographer, not you, not I, not even the greatest photographers in the world, will ever reach a point where we can stop and say, “good enough!” There will always, always be room for improvement. Look over your work with a critical eye and keep your sights set on the future with the idea that tomorrow, you will be determined enough to create a work of art that is even better than the one you created the day before. 


Be Determined to Invest

I know — this sounds like you should be determined to invest lots of money in gear and equipment. And trust me, you probably will. Most photographers spend more money on must-have toys than is sane or reasonable. We do it for the love of the art because we are determined to make something incredible.

When I say that you should be determined to invest, however, I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about investing yourself. People like to think that photography is a quick and easy art. After all, it takes less time to snap the shutter release than it does to place paint on canvas. But you know the reality, that photography takes long hours of preparation, waiting for the perfect moment. There are hours devoted to creating and refining ideas and hours put into post processing and pouring over the perfect papers on which to print. Creating a piece of fine art is no easy feat, no matter what medium. Thus, you’ll need to be determined enough in your pursuit of art that you are willing to set aside all of the time it requires.


Every aspect of photography requires your determination. It’s the one tool, beyond knowledge or gear, that will see you through to the end. When you’re feeling yourself in a slump, remember what it takes to be a successful photographer and use your determination as the motivation you need to move forward.

Will Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) arrogance block creating creative determination frustration gear improvement investment learning thinking time http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/determination-is-the-key-to-everything Wed, 17 May 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Perfecting Portraiture #4: Posing and the Finer Points http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/perfecting-portraiture-4-posing-and-the-finer-points Over the last several posts, we've covered quite a lot of ground. You now know how to portray the eyes to their best advantage, how to make skin look great and ways to photograph hair so that it adds to the portrait rather than detracting from it. Now it’s time to go into some of the things that affect the overall image.

Posing, for instance, is vital. Whether you're doing headshots or creating a full body shot, you’ll need to know how best to pose your subjects so that the final project doesn't look awkward, forced or contrived. It is also important to build a rapport with your subjects. If they feel uncomfortable during the photo shoot, then they'll almost certainly look uncomfortable in their images. Let’s jump in and get started with posing!

Position the Chin

When you are creating a portrait, the first thing you'll want to do is ask the subject to bring his or her chin forward. When we sit or stand naturally with our heads in a normal, neutral position, it doesn’t look particularly odd. However, if you use that same posture in a photo, under off-camera lighting, then strange things happen to the head and neck.

First, because the lines along the jawline are shorter than they would be if you asked the subject to bring his or her head forward, there is less shadowing. Less shadow, in this case, isn't a good thing because without that shadow under the chin, the chin and neck blend together. It can make the subject look like they have a weak chin or a larger neck than they actually have.

The other issue is that when the chin is back, the forehead tends to be pushed forward. This is how you get that infamous “fivehead” look. More light will fall on the forehead than on other areas of the face, which emphasizes it, making it look much larger than it actually is.

Relaxing the Posture

Another trick is the lean. Have your subject lean to one side just a little bit, almost imperceptibly, against a wall, a tree or some other object — or if they are comfortable with it, have the subject put their shoulders back to give the impression of a slight lean. You don't want the subject to be slouching or seriously leaning to one side. Instead, just a little bit to give the image a slightly more casual, relaxed look. When finished, a portrait done in this way will feature a subject that looks like he or she is comfortable in front of the camera.

Arms and Legs

There are lots and lots of ways to position the arms and legs. Have your subject place a hand on a railing or fold their arms loosely in front of them. Legs can be captured while the subject is taking a step, crossed or in any other configuration that is comfortable. The one thing you never want to do, however, is crop photos at the joints.

Let’s say that you want to take a picture of your subject’s head and torso. You have three options: Preferably crop the image above the elbows, or you can crop below the elbows. Failing that, make sure all parts of the arms are visible. The same goes for the legs. Crop them above or below the knee or include the entire length of the leg.

The reason for this is simple: Images that are cropped at the joints just look strange. The viewer of such an image, although he or she may not realize it, might see the knee or elbow and want to look at the rest of the limb. They're left with a feeling of incompleteness. Additionally, cropping mid-thigh or halfway between the elbow and shoulder looks more flattering and less awkward for your subject.


Building a Rapport with Your Subject

One of the most important parts of portraiture, even more so than posing or refining other aspects of the image, is making sure that your subject is comfortable with the process. When someone is camera shy, there’s a good chance that the images will not only show this but highlight it.

So how do you make your subjects feel at ease? Well, some are naturally at home in front of the camera but most will feel awkward from the moment you get started. It’s tough to give advice about how to establish a rapport because everyone has a different personality — photographers and all the various people that they will make portraits for.

There are a few general things tips and tricks which I will list below:

  • Bring along plenty of grooming supplies. Clients are generally in a rush to get ready for their portraits and likely to forget key essentials, which is just going to increase their stress levels while they're onsite. Makeup remover wipes, tissues, disposable makeup applicators, combs — these are all things that will come in handy and clients will feel relieved if they happened to forget a basic item or two.
  • Make the process clear ahead of time. For instance, if you will be going through several outfits during a shoot, then inform the client that there will be a private place to change clothes. Let them know how long the shoot will take approximately along with any other details that a non-photographer might not know.
  • Posing for the camera is hard work! Give your client breaks, ask them to “shake it out” if they've been standing or sitting in a particular position for a while.
  • Listen. Portrait subjects are curious about the process and some may have had a bad experience in the past. Be attentive towards any concerns and don't brush aside questions no matter what your opinions are of the questions asked.


As you can see, portraiture is complicated and there are so many details that I can't possibly cover them all even in a lengthy series of posts. However, these four posts will lay the groundwork for your forays into portraiture. Now it’s time for you to corral your friends and family members so that you can start practicing your art!

Will Moneymaker

(Will Moneymaker Photography) arms chin comfort leaning legs neck posing posture rapport relaxed http://www.willmoneymaker.com/blog/2017/5/perfecting-portraiture-4-posing-and-the-finer-points Wed, 10 May 2017 11:00:00 GMT