Today I'm going to photograph . . . .

Whenever I tell people my hobby is photography they invariably ask me one of two questions. If they too enjoy photography it is "What camera do you use". Always strikes me as a boring question - "At the end of the day" my normal reply starts "they're all boxes with holes in and a fancy timer."

 

The non photographers who in the name of trying to seem interested ask "So what do you photograph?" I've yet to come up with a suitably witty reply to this despite being asked it countless times, so until the day dawns when that witty reply enters the vacant lot that is my skull arrives they get "Anything except people." And that about sums up my approach to photography - anything except people.

 

So many times now I set off to photograph a particular subject and come back, Monty Python style with "Something completely different". Last year by way of example I visited a zoo - choc full obviously with animals of all sorts - so what do I come back with? Well an image (rather a nice image even if I do say myself) - of . . .   a mushroom I found in one of the flower beds.

Do things ever change? Seemingly not. My latest photographic venture saw me go to a restored and working steam powered pumping station. Beautiful pieces of steel and  brass, lovingly painted and polished to within a few thou of their lives moved silently in the kind of balerenic dance that only massive Victorian engineering can manage. So what do I come back with? A rather comical image of a radio controlled 'Henry Hoover' that was doing the rounds of the pumping station cooling pond. Seemingly bored with building radio controlled boats the owner of this comical masterpiece had decided what the world needed most was a radio controlled, floating Henry Hoover- complete with a water squirting nozzle and a handle that flapped up and down at the touch of a button on his control unit.

 

And for me at least this is the beauty of photography. It encourages me to see things. I look for places to go, times and days when places not normally open are - but just for a brief spell - Heritage Open Weekends being a prime example.

I've learned so much from photography - not just f stops, ISOs, and what kind of shutter speed do I need to either get or prevent movement in an image. I've learned the names of so many flowers and animals. Explored towns and cities I'd never have done without the incentive of my camera. Met people who have patiently explained their hobby to me - and on many an occasion allowed me to places normally out of bounds.

 

What I love most about photography is that it opens my eyes to the wonderful world we live in and we're only here once so best make the most of it. But I still don't photograph people.

The Exposure Triangle - understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO

The Exposure Triangle.

The exposure triangle sounds daunting but it really isn't, partly because you can see the results of using it instantly with a digital camera and because when you catch the photo that you want, you quickly realise the power of the knowledge you have and how it fits into every picture you take.


What is it?

Put simply, it is the relationship between only 3 settings on your camera. The aperture, shutter speed and ISO. These 3 are the fundamental building blocks of every single image you will take and each one affects the other directly. Used correctly, they will allow you to control a scene and get that great photo almost every time. Lets look at the 3 elements of the 'triangle' one by one.


Shutter

The shutter is extremely fine metal or fabric vanes that move out of the way and allow light into the camera when you press the shutter button and instantly close again. You can vary how fast they move and therefore for how long light comes in. A typical digital camera will have speeds from 1/8000th of a second, right up to 30 seconds and these are measured in what we call 'stops'. A stop is simply a notch,or a mark, it's a way of measuring the next step up or down and each 'stop' is either double, or half, the speed.


Lets explain that a bit better. The accepted standards for shutter speeds are

1/1000 s, 1/500 s, 1/250 s, 1/500 s, 1/250 s, 1/125 s, 1/60 s,1/30 s, 1/15 s, 1/8 s, 1/4 s. You can see that the numbers half each time. Each one is called a stop so if you have 1/1000th of a second set on your camera, and you change it to 1/500th of a second you've turned your shutter speed down 1 stop. Using the stop as a measurement is useful because everyone knows what it means, but also because the other two, aperture and ISO are also measured in this way, and you'll see the benefit of this later.


Your camera will probably have more speeds on than this as I said.So if you're on 1/1000th of a second and you go up one stop you'll get 1/2000th, another stop is 1/4000th and yet another stop is 1/8000th of a second. Each time you are halving the amount of time that the shutter is open.


1/8000th of a second is extremely fast, so you need a lot of light to ensure that enough comes into the camera to make a picture in that short space of time. 30 seconds is quite a long time so this is useful when it's quite gloomy as it allows the small amount of light that is there enough time to come into the camera. If your camera is set to 1/8000th of a second and you want to set it to 30 seconds, how many stops difference is that?


1/8000, 1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30,1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1sec, 2sec, 4sec, 8sec, 16sec, 30 seconds. So that's 18 steps to get down to 30 seconds, so that's 18 stops difference.

On a bright sunny day you might use 1/1000th or 1/500th of a second shutter speed, as there is so much light that you don't need the shutter to be open for very long. If it's inside on a dull day there's not much light so you might have to use 1/30th, or even as low as 1/8th of a second. There's less light around, so you need the shutter to be open longer to allow light in for a longer period. Remember of course that the longer the shutter is open, the more risk there is of blur from you moving!


Uses of shutter speed:

Lets say you wish to take photos of a surfer and you want to freeze the action. They are moving fast so you need a fast speed of maybe 1/500th or even 1/1000th of a second. You may be covering a football match so again you need a fast speed, this time 1/1000th or even 1/2000th of a second to freeze the motion of the players and the ball.


Later, you may want to take photos of a flag fluttering in the wind. You use maybe 1/100th of a second so that there is some movement in the flag. Perhaps you want to take a photo of a fast car but with background blurred? So you 'follow' the car with your camera( called panning) and use maybe 1/50th of a second. This keeps the car sharp as you are moving the camera with it, but the background is blurred. You can see then why you would need to chose a specific shutter speed rather than just choosing any old speed.


So, the shutter determines how long light is allowed to come into the camera for, and is measured in stops, each one being either half or double the one before. A slow speed allows you to have movement in the picture, a fast one freezes all movement.


Aperture

The next part of the exposure triangle is aperture. Where shutter speed determines how 'long' light comes into the camera for, the aperture determines how 'much' light comes in. It's called an aperture because it is precisely that, an aperture, or hole. This aperture is in the lens and is varied by thin metal vanes which open and close, making a hole smaller or bigger. On some lenses if you take them off the camera and look through them as you change the aperture you can see the vanes moving. On most modern digital cameras you have to set an aperture, then press the 'depth of field' button(if your camera has one). Check your user manual to find out where this is. When you press the depth of field, or DoF button you can see the vanes in the lens moving.


Aperture is usually stated as an 'f stop' and like shutter speeds there is an accepted standard, these are shown as f stops, f2, f2.8,f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16 and f22. There are often more numbers on some lenses but don't worry about this for the time being. Again just like shutter speeds, an f stop is either half, or double the one before. 

So, let's say you have f2 set on your lens. The 'lower' the number, the 'larger' the aperture, therefore the 'more' light comes in. f2 is said to be wide open as the aperture or the vanes that determine the size of the hole is very large at f2 and so lets in lots of light. Because it lets in lots of light the shutter speed can be set faster, so lenses with f2 or even smaller, are said to be 'fast' lenses. Many zoom lenses might only have the lowest number off 5.6, so they're said to be slow lenses, because you need to set a slower shutter speed to let more light in.

On a bright sunny day you might use f11 because there is so much light that you need to restrict how much comes in. If you're inside on a dull day you need to let more light in, so you open the lens up to maybe f4, or even f2.8 in order to let more light in.


Now, let's say you have our child in a park and y want to take a photo. You would like the child to be sharp, but everything else in the background is distracting. So you set your aperture at a number such as f2.8 if you have it, or f4. At these numbers the amount of distance that is in focus will be limited, depending as well on what lens you're using. This is the Depth of Field or DoF that we mentioned earlier. At f2.8 if you are focussed on the child's face there will be almost nothing behind or in front of the child that will also be in focus. The further away things are the less focussed they will be. You can use this creatively. On the other hand you may wish to take a photo of a garden where you want the whole scene to be sharp. So you choose an aperture such as f16. This time when you focus on where the child might have been, things are in focus for many metres in front of and behind where you focus. 


So, the aperture determines how much light is allowed to come into the camera and like shutter speed is measured in stops, each one being either half or double the one before.


Stopping down means making that the aperture is small so that you have lots in focus, which oddly means you choose a bigger number,like f16. Opening the lens up means making that the aperture is very small so not much is in focus, such as f2.8 or f2.


How does aperture and shutter speed affect each other?

You may have realised something here. By having a longer shutter speed you allow the light a longer time to come into the camera, so that's useful on dull days. However, on dull days you can also set an aperture of f2, which allows much more light in. If you are using a slow shutter speed, maybe then you don't need quite as much light in,so you can turn the aperture to f5.6. That's great for those slow lenses! However if you have a fast lens you can use f2, and because there's more light coming in you can set a faster shutter speed,which means less chance of camera shake right?


I hear you say but how do I determine what shutter speed and what aperture to use? Well there's two things here. Firstly most digital cameras have an exposure scale in the viewfinder. It's a lot of little upright lines going along the bottom of the viewfinder usually, but they may be at the top or even at the side. There's one taller line in the middle and a little marker which runs underneath these lines. The centre line denotes the point at which correct exposure is set when the marker is on it.


Make sure your camera is in manual mode. Set the aperture to f8,and set the shutter speed to 1/60th. Where is the little marker in relation to the centre line? If it is not on the centre line then you are not correctly exposing the image. If the marker is below or to the left of the marker, it's too dark and the photo will be underexposed. If it's to the right or above the marker, it's too bright and the image will be over exposed. 


Shutter speed determines how long light can get into the camera,so if your marker is to the left or below the centre line and the image is under exposed, you need light coming in for a longer time,so you need to set the shutter speed one stop higher, or 1/30th. Set the shutter to 1/30th which if you remember doubles he amount of light coming in and see if the exposure indicator now says that it is correctly exposed.


There is of course another way to do this. If your photo is going to be under exposed remember that making your aperture wider can let more light in. So if your shutter speed is so slow already that hand holding it might result in a blurred photo, you can open the aperture up instead. If it was f8 like we said try setting it to f5.6. Remember, this is one stop higher, so is letting double the amount of light in.


If your exposure is now correct you've learned two things: one is that you can choose to open or close the lens to let more or less light in so that you can keep a faster shutter speed to prevent blur. The other is that bother aperture and shutter speed work in 'stops' so that 1 stop more doubles the light/speed, and 1 stop less halves the light/speed. You don't need that meter in the camera. If you open the lens by one stop to let twice as much light in, you need to shorten the shutter speed by one stop to halve the length of time light comes in. So effectively, the numbers change, and yet the exposure remains correct! There are some good reasons why this is useful which we'll read about later on. 


ISO

ISO is an acronym that comes from film but there has been a new ISO standard set out for digital cameras and it is used to describe how 'sensitive' the camera is to light. The main part of the camera that responds to light is the sensor and this sits behind the shutter ready to record the light in a scene when the shutter opens. This is exactly what used to happen with film cameras except the film would be exposed to light by the shutter, not the sensor. ISO was expressed as 'speed' because if you had 'fast' film, about 800 ISO, it was sensitive to light so you could get a fast shutter speed. 100 ISO film was slow, as it was less sensitive to light so you had to use longer shutter speeds.


When the shutter opens light falls onto the sensor, the data about how much light there is and what colours there are is recorded by the sensor, processed by a chip and sent to the memory card, saved in the format of a picture file. The sensor isn't more or less sensitive to light as film was, it simply amplifies all light that falls onto it. During that amplification it introduces 'noise', which is a grainy characteristic of the image. 100 ISO is taken to be the most desirable 'speed' as it needs the least amount of amplification and therefore brings the lowest levels of noise. If you double that to 200, the light falling on the sensor is amplified by double the amount, it's 1 stop extra. If you then set the ISO to 400, the amount of amplification the sensor applies to the available light is doubled yet again, 2 stops extra and doubled a third time if you set it to 800, which as you might guess, is 3 stops over ISO 100. Some cameras can go up to 25,600 and even beyond. Again you see how ISO uses the stops system in the same way as aperture and shutter speed do. It's a simple doubling or halving each time doubles or halves the light amplification. 


This means the camera can work in darker conditions because the low light that is available can be amplified so much. However the downside is that as the sensor amplifies the light more and more, the quality of the image the light would have formed decreases. 'Noise',similar to film grain, becomes extremely intrusive and there are other problems. However despite these problems you can see how this might be useful.

We'll take a quick example as we did in aperture.


Lets say your camera meter has suggested that a correct exposure would be f8 at 1/50th. You need to leave your aperture at f8 for the DoF but as you're using 100mm lens you need to use 1/100th of a second shutter speed. If you raise your shutter speed to let light in for longer the image will be over exposed. You can't use f16 so, you change your ISO from 100 to 200. The sensor will have to amplify the light a little but only a little, but that raising of ISO 1 stop means as the light is being amplified 1 stop, you can make the shutter speed 1 stop faster, ie: 1/100th. Job done.


You can see from this example how the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO is fundamental to all of your photography as it is the basis for all of your creative control whether you use flash units, daylight or studio lamps. 


How does all this fit together?

Well now we know all 3 elements of the exposure triangle work in stops and that for all of them 1 stop up is double the value and 1 stop down is half the value.


We know that if you change one, the other two will also have to change. Her are some examples:


Example 1

You have lots of light and are taking photos of birds on a bird table. Lots of light means a low ISO, or low light amplification. So set ISO to 100 and then say you want a fairly fast shutter speed to freeze the birds. So choose 1/1000th of a second. Then adjust your aperture until the meter says your shot is correctly exposed.


Example 2

You want to select one of the birds by focussing out everything else. So leave your ISO at 100 and choose f2.8 for minimal DoF. Check the camera's meter and adjust your shutter speed until you get correct exposure.


Final bits

This is a very simplified introduction. There are other things to take into consideration.

If you use a 50 mm lens, setting aperture of f2.8 might mean you get everything from the front of the face to the back of the head in focus. The depth of field is about 6 inches. If you use a 200mm lens,the same aperture would mean you only get a depth of field of about 2 inches so your focus is even more important. Depth of field is affected by the focal length of a lens and by your distance from the subject. 


Setting a high shutter speed may let light in for a shorter period but it can also mean that there is less detail recorded. Perhaps for a landscape you could try a longer exposure, by stopping down the lens little?


You may see much different numbers given for stops on your camera and in other tutorials. This is because most now use half stop numbers, and even 1/3 stop numbers. The principle of using stops is exactly the same though.


The actual practising of all of this is fun and within the normal sphere of taking photos but the basic exposure triangle is the most important primer you will need as it covers the fundamental elements of taking photos.

I hope you got something useful from this document.


What is a raw file and why should it not be called RAW?

 

People who don't use raw files are sometimes confused as to what they're all about so I decided to write this little help sheet. 


First bits

When you take a photo with your camera you are allowing light coming through the lens to pass through the shutter and fall onto the sensor. The sensor detects the light colours and strength as information, or data, records it into memory, then converts or processes it into a picture file, almost always a JPG, (some use JPEG) and compresses it, like you would Zip a Word document.


Sometimes you can set your camera to do certain things when it converts the data into a picture file. You can tell it to drop all the colours and have only Black and White, you can tell it to add a filter to make the picture sepia, or you can add simple things like a little extra brightness, more contrast, and even a little sharpness. This all happens when you take the picture and you don't see anything going on, you simply see the preview screen show you the shot you just took. 


Most cameras allow you to save to JPG Small, Medium and Large, or Fine. JPGs are compressed data as said and some of the data can be dropped without most noticing any difference. This saves on space mostly but as space in computers is relatively cheap now, there's little point in choosing any other than the best quality option. That is, the largest file. 


You then transfer the JPGs to your computer and edit them in photo editing software (list of programs available coming soon)...or not! Most people edit to a small degree, even if that's fixing the horizon cos it's wonky, adjusting the exposure cos it was too dark/bright, or enhancing the colours by saturating them slightly. 

Some cameras allow you to save in TIFF or DNG format, we'll not worry too much about them here. 


Next bits

Most cameras nowadays have a setting also called raw. Unlike TIFF, JPG and DNG, raw doesn't stand for anything. That data that your sensor collects, it's just unprocessed, or raw data, it's RGB values for each sensor pixel. That's why it's called raw. Most cameras allow you to save a raw file and a JPG at the same time. This is simply so you have a JPG file you can look at quickly once it's on your computer. When you've decided which ones you're going to keep, you can delete all the JPG's if you like. 


To do anything with this raw data you need some software and everyone uses the software that they prefer. My preference is Lightroom, but there are many out there, some are even freeware, free to download and use from the internet.


When you open the raw file in whatever software you use, it does what's called de-mosaicing. This is a term which simply means the software reads the data, and presents it in a form that you can see on screen. You may notice that at first the picture isn't as pretty as a JPG, but that's because the camera didn't choose how to convert that data like it does with JPG, it's sometimes flat and doesn't look very nice.


However, some programs like Lightroom can do what is called 'non-destructive' editing. What happens is this:

Lightroom loads the raw file and de-mosaics it so you see an image. You can alter that image in many ways and Lightroom keeps a record of what you did in a special file so each time you load the raw file it also loads the special file and shows you the image as it would appear with your changes.


Once you are happy with all the changes you can then export a JPG from it. The raw file is still untouched, the special file still retains all the edits you made, but the JPG is there for you to do with whatever you want.


Final Bits

Now here's a beautiful thing. In fact 2 beautiful things.

First beautiful thing:

Every time you view a JPG you are actually decompressing the compressed file (remember I said earlier it's like a compressed zip file?) and when you close it you are re-compressing it. Every single time you do this with a JPG you lose a tiny bit more detail, this is called lossy compression. So over time the JPG deteriorates. If that happens or if you simply lose the JPG, you can go back and export another one from your raw file. There is no limit to how many you can export. You can even export one small JPG for your Facebook, a larger one for your blog and a much larger one to print out.


Second beautiful thing:

Let's say you miscalculated your exposure and it's slightly dark. No problem, use Lightroom or other raw processing software to give more exposure. Raw files allow you approximately 3 stops over and under. What they can also do is allow you to slightly darken a too-bright sky, but slightly lighten a too-dark shadow. Then when it's right, export your spot on JPG. There are a myriad of alterations you can make in raw software and the beauty is you can simply click 'reset' and your raw file is back instantly to how it was when you first transferred it from your camera. Both Canon and Nikon cameras all ship with their own software too so you don't have to buy a separate program if you don't want to.


You can't break anything and making digital costs you nothing, so why not try raw and see what you think?


Some extra bits...

JPEG (pronounced jay peg) stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, who first determined how JPEGs would work. They're usually called JPGs simply because file extensions in Windows only used to be able to be 3 letters, hence myphoto.jpg. This is still the preferred and most commonly used file format, although often produced from a raw file. 

TIFFs are Tagged Image Format Files and they are not compressed like JPGs are, so take up lots more room. 

PNG is Portable Network Graphic. This format unlike JPG's does not lose info each time it is compressed and was made to replace the GIF which has limited or no use in photography. It's use is highly debatable. 


GIFs is Graphic Interchange Format and only contains 256 colours so is not usually much use to digital photography. 

Hand holding your camera at low shutter speeds

Anyone can hand hold at low speeds if circumstances allow, but most can easily extend the range at which you can handhold to a second. I wrote this as I can in some situations hand hold my camera down to 3 seconds and get a usable shot. This photo below was in fact shot handheld at 30 secs. I was supporting myself and braced against a tree but it shows what can be done.

Here's some techniques I use:


It's interesting that I use all the same techniques for firing weapons,when taking photos!

*A human heartbeat is so strong it can be detected as vibrations, even when relaxed in a 45 ton vehicle.

*Don't hold with both hands: hold with one flat hand and balance/fire with the other.

*DON'T hold your breath: take 3 quick, deep breaths and shoot midway between letting the last one out slowly.

*Use anything to brace your body from the waist down, (fence, wall, vehicle) but don't brace against things from the waist up, (wall,post) unless the wind is fierce.
*Even in windy weather if you wait long enough there is often a lull, even for a second. Be prepared for it.

*Left foot pointing forward, right foot slightly behind and pointing to the right makes a stable position. Imagine your feet making a letter T in shape.

*Never let your shoulders go further forward than your feet do: you're altering your centre of balance.

*Hunch forward and tuck your elbows onto your stomach when shooting at slow speeds. Don't use this position if you're out of breath!

*When lowering for a shot but not going on one knee, lower by bending your knees, NOT by bending your back. Your feet should always be wider apart than your shoulders.

*Down on your right knee, left foot forward, right knee and toe either side and behind you, so each 'point' creates a tripod shape. Once you're stable you can also rest your left elbow on your left knee. Great position for windy days. Don't be scared of dirty knees: clothes wash

*You can also go down on your bum, right leg bent and against the floor,left leg stretched out slightly with foot on floor. Very stable and lowered position. 

*If you have to lie down, have your left leg straight out, but your right leg bent at the knee and drawn up. Left elbow on the ground for stability. Remember to try and keep your stomach off the ground if possible as it moves significantly with your diaphragm when you breath. Also there is an artery in your belly that can make your entire body 'twitch' as your heart pumps. 

*If you're quite out of breath, your heartbeats are noticeable so try and time your shutter release just before a beat. 

*When really out of breath use walls, posts, fences, vehicles or anything to brace yourself against. You'll find that prone (lying down) positions are worse the more out of breath you are.

*You don't press the shutter release, you squeeze your hand so that the squeezing movement forces your finger to operate the shutter.Practice squeezing with forefinger on shutter release, thumb on the back of the camera and middle finger on the grip, and squeeze those three so that your camera does not move at all.

*Finally,don't grip your camera tightly. You can feel a pulse through many areas of your hand, and arm when it's bent. Support the camera in your left hand in a way that prevents it moving, (base of camera on heel of hand, lens pointing between thumb and forefinger, elbow tucked in if necessary. The right hand is for shooting.

Everyone is different so some of these may work for you some might not. Some you might have to change to get to work for you. It's all a good starting point. :)


Keywording, what's it all about?

Keywording or tagging is important for 2 reasons:

Firstly if you have thousands of images on your computer and someone wants an image of a child in a sunhat, how do you find it? You remember you had a photo of one of your children in a hat on the beach one day and it was an excellent photo, but you can't recall where it is. You may eventually find it of course but you may waste a lot of time searching. I would find it because all of my images are tagged or keyworded.

I use Lightroom but there are very many 'tagging' programs around, some free of cost so there is no excuse not to use one. My workflow goes like this:
I import the images from the camera and set generic keywords if I've been on a shoot. These may be something like "Wales, Rhyl, beach, coast, seaside, summer, 2015, UK, sea, sand" It takes seconds to enter these into the box, and all images during import are assigned these keywords. 
Now, if ever I want an image of a beach, in summer, in Wales, all of these will show up in my search and I've not even done any work yet. I'd easily find them in a general search and sometimes that's enough.

So once they're imported I start culling them and of the ones I am keeping I start tagging individually. So the first one has a child in the foreground with a very blue stripey sunhat. She's with her family playing in the sand so I might add "children playing, sun hat, blue stripes, blue hat, family, sand castle, bucket, spade, siblings, parents" You can see where these tags fit into the scene. It takes me about a minute to scan the scene and think "if I was looking for this image, what might I be looking for?"

Well if someone said show me your images of families playing on a beach, there you go, I've nailed it. What about a blue hat? Yes I can find it easily. What about children playing with a bucket and spade on the beach? Again, I'd find it easily. 
This is a very brief overview as some images have dozens of keywords all designed to be able to bring up that photo when required, for any element in it. 

It is possible that you can now add what I call extended tags and I do this at a later stage, usually with images that I actually export for upload. Apart from the obvious scene, you might add something like "British holidays, pebbly beach, clear blue sky, wide angle, afternoon sun, happy, waves." Now we're being specific about things that aren't necessarily what the original image was of, the original was simply a child playing on the beach. But what if you want a photo that has a clear blue sky, or a specific image of a pebbly beach instead of a sandy one? Perhaps you're simply looking to see how many images you used your wide angle lens on? Try and think what you may want to find this photo for and add words. It sounds a long process but once you're used to it it really isn't. You get used to seeing individual elements of a scene and adding them as a searchable keyword.

And this brings us to the second important reason for tagging. The first is so you can find your own images, but the second is so other people can find your images too. 
Once you upload your files to Photo4me their keywords go with them but you can alter them after upload at any time. When they are displaying on the site the only way people can find them if they don't specifically trawl through your entire portfolio is to use the keyword search. 

So let's say someone has come to the site and wants to find a specific image of Stonehenge during a sunset. You took that picture, and you should have tagged it with "UK, Wiltshire, Stonehenge, monument, ancient, history, attraction, Druids, solstice, stones, stone circle, English heritage, sunset, tourists" 
So they type in Stonehenge and/or sunset and along with other images, yours will be included in the results. However what if they are fairly new to the area and type in Wiltshire, attractions? Or just Druids, they might even type in Wiltshire to see what pretty, local pictures come up that they can hang in their shop.
Given this scenario, what else might you be able to tag a photo of Stonehenge at sunset with? What about crowds, tourists, gathering, superstition, culture? Are there any more words to add to enable someone to find that image? Have a think and make a list and see how many you can get.

This is important because the addition of only one word may mean the difference between you earning £money from an image, or of that image gathering dust. You may look at an image and not see any more things you can tag but what about other people? I've tagged some of my images with "emotional scene" and "inspiring" because sometimes people look for images that fit a mindset rather than a subject. Add "happy, sad, party, exciting" and other such descriptive emotional words to your images. 

So, keywording or tagging helps you find your own images and it also helps other people find your images. But if it's not done right you are missing out and that all important sale goes to someone else. When you find yourself complaining that "I never seem to sell anything..." is it your own fault? 10 minutes of careful thought spent on one image might mean £30 in commission from one sale, that's an hourly rate of £180. That's worth it to me.

Help! Why am I not selling?

Often I get an email from a frustrated member asking what can they do to improve the odds of selling on the site. There is a general reply I would give, although I do taylor it to their specific question if needed.


In my experience, people want to see a few things. They are highlighted below.

 

 

Wording/Descriptions

 

A lot of people tell me about their personal stories about an area, a place or an event that happened somewhere. I then try to match that description with what they've told me. I then send that picture to the client.

 

I also try and find a description which makes an emotional connection with the client.

 

I don't know how many times I've seen say, Brighton Pier. Good picture but the description says "On holiday took a picture. I think it looks nice."

 

We've stressed it many times but please be descriptive with your image. Pull on peoples emotions and make them want to buy it.

 

I'll send that picture along with 4-5 others which match the description the client was looking for and 9/10 times, they'll go with a feel with the picture and an emotional touch.


For more in depth information about this topic see my other blog post located here:

http://blog.photo4me.com/post/2015/01/15/helping-you-get-your-workings-right-for-search-engines.aspx

 

 

Your portfolio

 

Another point would be to have a strong portfolio. This idea of more is better is a complicated one.

 

- You want people to see your portfolio and all the nice stuff.

- To much stuff leads to substandard photo's.

- You want to keep all the emotional storied photos and take out the "meh" pictures.

 

People look at other images from that photographer. If they see great photo's and substandard photo's they question the professionalism and skill of the photographer. Never underestimate the power of your own portfolio.

 

Notice that those who sell multiple pictures tend to be those with great photo's? Sure you have the 1 time seller because they have a specific area and that great shot of it. But notice it's more or less the same people in the "Top sellers last thirty days" It's not on the always because of the home page.

 

Avoid pictures which don't sell often. Reason why we came up with the redundant decline. Insects/Swans/Ducks/Geese/Cats don't sell often and the site is loaded with them already. Takes away from the power of your portfolio.

 

 

Pricing

 

People are also looking for the best price. Sure some can get away with having 100% mark-up and if that works for that member great. However people are always price comparing. I'll see potential carts through admin and they'll have 4-5 same images and be comparing the price. Don't give them away but don't make it out of reach of their budget.

 

 

Advertise:

 

Try uploading one of two pictures a day, do your own picture of the day. Put ads around facebook and twitter. Others have said that part of proceeds go to a charity. Do something different.

 

 

Keep up the good work!


Mike

Planned work for week commencing 17th January

Tiny URL's

This week I will be working on the new tiny URL's for members.

An example of a tiny URL would be http://photo4me.com/jon as you can see that takes the visitor directly to my portfolio page. http://www.photo4me.com/canvasprints/_/_/grossSales/_/1 (which does not roll off the tongue).

In the past when the site was smaller, it was easy to have a shortened URL like above. We can no longer have them off the main route of the site, as it is causing some application issues. and they need to be moved to either a new domain e.g. http://profile.photo4me.com/jon or have them within a folder of the main site e.g. http://photo4me.com/profile/jon.

We need to give fair warning to members that have the old style of shortened URL that they will stop working after 31/03/2015, when the new ones will take over.

We will make an announcement later this week when we have decided the new layout of the tiny URL. 

We are aware that this may cause some members issues but the work is essential and we thank you for your patience.

Helping you get your wordings right for search engines!

We are currently working closely with a search engine marketing company. They think the pictures on the site are lovely and marketable, we just need to get people to see them! However, if they want to be found they have told us multiple times that search engines will be targeting those with good accurate description and keywords.

Be specific, have the emotional touch, write a couple lines. Whatever you can say about the picture say it. (Make sure it is relevant and important to the the picture).


3 Good examples:


"The sun shines through Cromer Pier and on to the pebbly beach as it rises in early September casting its light on the buildings of Cromer in Norfolk." -Stephen Mole

http://shop.photo4me.com/216668/canvas


"The Lancaster and Spitfires from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Battle of Britain Memorial Flight passing over a field of poppies. RAF." James Biggadike

http://shop.photo4me.com/263323/canvas

"Finnieston crane and the Clyde Arc. Taken in the final moments of daylight on a very cold day. Typical Glasgow. A very long exposure image capturing the movement of the clouds across the sky. "John Farnan

http://shop.photo4me.com/231067/canvas


There are a couple bad examples:

"Red rose" 

"Beautiful day at pier" 

"Black dog"


Don't be general with a sentence or a couple words. Don't write fluff as in write for the sake of writing.


Write the keywords, if possible from most important to least important. Have them relate to the description above.


Hopefully this helps you all in the future.
Jon & Mike

Welcome to the Blog!


We are looking for writers!


Photo4me is starting a blog for members, as you can plainly see. This is will be article style where you write about your experience, thoughts, locations, pictures, equipment anything that interests you and what can be a benefit for the community. We will not be looking for self-publicizing articles about your own images.

Jon and I will co-write 1 article a week with our "thoughts of the week".

Our "official" launch date is February 1st barring any set-backs.

If you are interested, write a small excerpt or article 500 words max and send it to me: customercare@photo4me.com

We hope to take on board a handful of writers to start with. Those selected as contributors will be announced at a later date.

We look forward hearing from you!
Jon & Mike