Sunday, November 27, 2011

Don't be Stingy with Keywords

Photo organizing is a chore.  It’s probably the least favorite part of the photographer’s workflow, but arguably one of the most important.  It’s important because of the need to be able to retrieve images at a later date—and that need drives the importance (and the benefits) of good organization.

How many times have you gone to look for an image but forgot exactly where you were when you shot it, or even when you shot it, and unfortunately the subject was not something you used as a keyword…so you just start scrolling through images hoping to stumble upon it. 

My recommendation to you, and it’s from personal experience, is to use keywords as part of your organizing, and don’t be stingy with them.  Most photo organizing software allows you to “tag” images with keywords that can later be used as criteria for finding images.  It’s tempting to keep keywords at a minimum, but I’ve learned that the more key words you use, the greater your chances of finding a particular image later.  Don’t write paragraphs and be so specific with keywords that you’re describing details of a single image, but rather use enough keywords so that your searches will narrow down to retrieve a group of  50-100 images that would include the one you’re looking for.

Think of keywords along the lines of who, what, when, where, and why (the “5-Ws”).  If you do that, you will greatly increase your chances of finding what you want, quickly.  I was recently looking for this image of a tractor that I shot.  Only because I remembered where I took the image, was it relatively easy to find—but memory is not a good system when you have as many images as I do.  Had I used more keywords at the time of downloading, I would have been able to quickly find the image, spending less time searching, and more time on the project that I was working on.

So I would encourage that you make it a priority in your workflow to tag your images with keywords immediately after downloading.  I've had really good success now using the “5-Ws”—if you have another system that you’re using and getting good results from, drop me a line and share how it's working.

Feel free to contact me at or check out my website gallery at

(metadata for this image 1/250 sec at f/8 ISO 200, focal length 28mm)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why I like HDR

For all that’s been written about High Dynamic Range (HDR), it still carries a stigma among some photography “purists” who believe it to be an unnatural manipulation.  I won’t try to convince you otherwise, but what I will do is tell you that it’s a tool that I’m glad to have discovered, and in certain situations it’s about the only way to capture what’s in my mind’s eye.

Take for example this sculpture that I was admiring in the Allan Houser Sculpture Garden outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I was there last month and enjoyed touring the gardens and was in awe of the talents of this amazing artist.  This particular sculpture spoke to me yet it was obvious that the lighting conditions were not favorable for capturing what I was feeling in a single exposure.

The clouds were amazing, and the deep blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for the sculpture and a beautiful color pairing for the red desert rock.  The problem was that the sky and clouds were very bright compared to the relatively dark bronze of the Indian sculpture.  The details and subtle colors of the sculpture could only be captured by opening up the lens, but that action would further blow out the sky (not to mention shallow my depth of field, which I didn't want).  It was quite clear to me that this was a capture that would depend on using HDR techniques to convey everything I was after.

I use Photomatix for my HDR processing.  I prefer it to Photoshop, just a personal preference.  I also prefer to have my HDR images appear within the range of realism.  Some people enjoy creating wild, exaggerated, surrealistic imagery—I haven’t developed an appreciation for that sort of artistic expression.  If someone looks at one of my pictures and asks if it’s an HDR, then I feel like I’ve failed.  If instead, they look at my pictures and “ooh” and “ahh”, then I feel like I’ve succeeded in not over-processing. 

Here I was able to capture the full dynamic range of the subject matter in my composition, and convey the complete idea that was in my mind’s eye. This is the reason that I like HDR, and it's why I feel that it's a tool worth having in your repertoire.

Feel free to contact me at or check out my website gallery at

(metadata for the contributing images 1/250 sec at f/8 (the overexposed). 1/500 at f/11 (the underexposed), 1/350 at f/9.5 (normal—what the meter wanted), and ISO 200, focal length 18mm)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Don't Leave Home Without It!

I’ve taken to heart the advice I've seen many photographers give to always have a camera with you.  That said, I don’t ALWAYS have a camera with me, and even when I do, it’s not always my Nikon.  But I've made a concerted effort recently to carrying around my “point and shoot” camera--especially on those occasions where my activity is not purposely photography-oriented.

Such was the case this week as I was taking a walk along the river trail near my house.  It’s easy to carry the camera in my hand all the while I’m speed-walking.  If I find something interesting, I stop and shoot it.  It gives me a great feeling to know that I’m getting fresh air AND getting a few shots off here and there.

I wish that I had taken this advice a bit earlier, because it was during a similar walk last week that I spotted a coyote—a big one!  I had a great vantage point, and the coyote was looking back at me…what a great shot that would have been.  Oh well, live and learn.

If you don’t have a camera with you at all times, consider getting a small point-and-shoot camera to keep in your car, bike bag, etc… you’ll be glad you did.

Feel free to contact me at or check out my website gallery at

(metadata 1/200 sec at f/4. and ISO 100, focal length 24mm)