Photo Coleslaw

Archive for September 2009

Developing Your Photographic Style

with one comment

Picture 1Become serious about photography and there is one piece of advice you’ll hear over and over again – work on developing a sense of style.  And for a long time the idea confounded me. I understood the concept, sure. Find a way of shooting that separates you from the masses. Be different. Be original. Be yourself. Period.

Except I would look at my pictures and they would be one-hit-wonders.  Each one would look like it was captured by a different photographer.  Guess what?   It’s normal. Sorta like when hot pants make a reappearance in summer fashions. (I know all you men are following this analogy closely)  You take a few pair into the dressing room, give ’em a whirl in the mirror and realize you just aren’t as trendy as you thought you were. Then it’s back out to the racks to locate something a bit more classic. Breathe a sigh of relief, it’s you.

Same goes with photography. For a sense of consistency to start appearing in your work – you not only need to shoot a lot, but also with a sense of direction.  So how do you find that direction? Go get a piece of paper and a pen and try this. Seriously, you have to write it down for it to work, something about the act of actually manifesting a thought physically onto paper instead of just in your head is important. On the top of the page write the thing you like to shoot most.  Landscapes, people, llamas, whatever. Just make sure it is just one thing. Now underneath it number 1 through 5. Next to each number write a trait that describes you. Extroverted, contemplative, funny…  be honest, your list is just for you.

styleblog-4Over the next month start shooting that one thing using those descriptive words. Focus less on what the thing looks like and more like making it feel like the words. Somewhere in there lays your voice.

The two images in this post are a couple of my attempts at working on style. Practicing has the great benefit of allowing that inner-voice to speak up.  The work I want to make is rooted in a sense of mystery. Asking questions, not answering them.   That’s what I think about before I click the shutter.


Written by Spelman

09/30/2009 at 4:10 pm

Behold…. Lightroom!

leave a comment »

Picture sitting in a room with 413 file cabinets surrounding you.  They’re huge looming things and each one has multiple files within it.   Every time you need to retrieve a  file you have to rely on your memory or an elaborate list that you manually enter all of the critical information into.

Look a little closer and those drawers seem to be laughing at you.

Such was the case before Adobe Lightroom entered into the file management system.   Those file cabinets were actually folders on your hard drive with multiple subfolders.  A lot of photographers would simply curl into the fetal position and rock back and forth when faced with the task of finding all of the images related to “Dog”

Now picture those same filing cabinets, except they’re operated by invisible hands and multiple drawers can zoom open and closed simultaneously on your command.   Employ Lightroom into your workflow and quite frankly you might just find yourself sleeping better at night.

An ongoing theme within Photo Coleslaw will be the tricks to maximize the power of Lightroom.   The less time you spend on file management means the more time you can spend on shooting.  Or cleaning your gutters.  Whatever strikes your fancy.

To start?  The power of Smart Collections.   They have two important functions within my workflow.  They automatically sort out my best files for me (handy when you are looking to update your portfolio) and they sort out the problems in my workflow (files who somehow escaped keywording tagged onto them)


I employ a 3 star system in my editing process.  1 star for decent, 2 for solid and 3 for possible portfolio-worthy.   I have a Smart Collection set up to filter all images that have a 3 star rating and were captured within the last year.  My best, recent work is always there – constantly evolving with no effort from me.  Kind of makes you smile, eh?

Picture 6

The flipside of that is the isolating of images that need attention.  Lightroom comes with a Smart Collection already set up to filter all files that have no keywords attached to them.  Normally keywords are added upon import, occasionally a mistake is made and they are not.  This collection ensures that I catch those files and they don’t disappear untagged into the system.

Picture 7

The power of Smart Collections lies in the fact that they operate completely independently and automatically.  They constantly update themselves as you move through time.   Take that laughing file cabinets!  You’ve just been rendered obsolete…

Written by Spelman

09/23/2009 at 10:13 am

Hey there…

with 4 comments

Back in the day, artists striving for viability went out and purchased black.  Buttondowns, turtlenecks, t-shirts.  A little black = decent art.  A lot of black and edgy glasses = stellar art.

Seems in this day the new black is actually a blog.

So here we go….  it’s called Photo Coleslaw.  It’s my shared attempts at finding the perfect recipe.  Some people like carrot, others only use red cabbage and a few really avant gardes go for pineapple.  The same is true for photography – gotta get the mixture just right.   So as I try out new equipment, work on my creative vision, and basically have those elusive a-ha moments, I’ll share them.

To start, a topic I hold close – self-portraits.  Pretty much falls into the territory of wearing black.  All artists have a go with them.  They have the benefit of a model who will work for free, has infinite patience and is vested in the process as much as you are.  Can’t argue with that.

Besides, how much more narcissistic can you get than to publish 3 pictures of yourself on your very first post?

Start making them for long enough and they become like a Rorsch ink-blot test.  You can peruse back over them and see exactly where you were at any given point in your life.   They force an honesty out of you.  Somehow its really hard to lie to a camera that no one is on the other side of.  It boils down to what you have to say.

Squeezed in one last camping trip last week.  Was trying out a Nikon tilt-shift lens, gives you depth of field control not just front to back, but pretty much any way you please.  Only so much landscape I can shoot.  Pretty soon a pile of wood has turned tripod and I am scrambling to get myself into the frame in a way that doesn’t yell “she’s camping and two days past a shower”




Thanks for stopping by.  Come back next week for…..  your guess is as good as mine.   Could be a guest photographer, might be a guide for Lightroom workflow or my grandmother’s absolutely secret ‘slaw recipe.  Kind of exciting, eh?

Written by Spelman

09/13/2009 at 9:24 pm