Do you know how to find the essence of your subject?

Images in black & white reveal beauty hiding in plain sight.

What is truly important becomes clear without the distraction of color.

Let’s look at how using the example of a flower.

 

What is the essence of a flower?

How do you know what type of flower this is if you can’t see its color?

Does the flower’s shape or size inform you?

Could the answer lie in how many petals a flower has?

Or perhaps the texture of the petals gives you a clue?

Let the answers to these and other questions guide you toward the photos you might take to show the essence of a flower.

How do you see the essence?

The simplest way is to look at your subjects in black & white. Then you cannot be distracted by colors.

Seeing in black & white easily reveals the essence of your subject.

It helps you simplify your compositions and to see light and contrast.

Learn how in Beautiful Black & White using any digital camera, even your phone.

 

 

Discover the freedom of in-camera black & white

The black & white images shown here were all captured 100% in-camera.

No post-processing required!

 

Explore new creative paths

In Beautiful Black & White  you’ll learn how to see captivating black & white images all around you.

Take your creativity in an exciting direction.

Discover the joy of black & white photography and start finding beauty everywhere!

 

What Bryan says about instructor Brit Hammer

In a previous newsletter Bryan wrote this:

“I rarely speak out with this level of enthusiasm for any of our instructors because ALL of our instructors are equally great in teaching their individual craft, so why have I chosen to call attention to one of our instructors Brit Hammer? Simply because of Brit’s ability to transform each of her students’ vision from good to great consistently, time and time again; in part because of her insightful lessons, but I can say unequivocally that Brit’s greatest strength is her in-depth and disarming critique style of each student’s weekly assignments.

This is the most often comment I receive from BPSOP students: ‘Brit’s critiques were the greatest value in this course. The assignments were great, BUT the critiques were by far the most valuable!’

If you have yet to take a class from Brit, consider [this] the best opportunity to grow your photography in ways you have perhaps never imagined!” — Bryan F Peterson

 


 

SIGN UP FOR A FUN CLASS WITH BRIT HAMMER

Finding Beauty

Beautiful Black & White

Authentic Photo Stories

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images

Photography Essentials

Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

** No post processing skills necessary for any of Brit’s courses **

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BRIT

Brit Hammer is an international award-winning photographer, bestselling author, and a celebrated artist whose work is aptly described as fresh and optimistic.

Brit’s students love her intuitive eye, patience, enthusiasm and holistic nurturing because the results are unbelievably incredible and inspiring student growth.

Visit Brit’s website at brithammer.com

Learn more about creative development and one-on-one mentoring with Brit

Follow Brit on Instagram

 

“There are great photographers and great teachers, but it is rare to find a great photographer who’s also a wonderful instructor; Brit embodies that rare combination.” — Tennessee Rick Elliot

The 3 Tenets of black & white photography

Do you know The 3 Tenets of black & white photography, as instructor Brit Hammer likes to call them?

In Beautiful Black & White you’ll explore them all to take your photography to the next level.

 

The 3 Tenets of black & white photography

1. Simplify your composition

Images free of clutter make for the strongest black & white images.

All unnecessary elements are pushed out of frame.

It’s through the process of simplifying that you arrive at the essence of your subject.

2. Find the light

Black & white images are not just images without color.

What makes a compelling black & white photo is one that evokes emotion.

This is done by using highlights and shadows to great effect.

3. Embrace contrast

Black and white images crave contrast.

Light tones enhance the dark tones and vice versa. This is what makes images pop.

If your image exists mostly in the grey tones then it will not be as dramatic.

 

Explore new creative paths

In Beautiful Black & White  you’ll learn how to see captivating black & white images all around you.

Take your creativity in an exciting direction.

Discover the joy of black & white photography and start finding beauty everywhere!

 

What Bryan says about instructor Brit Hammer

In a previous newsletter Bryan wrote this:

“I rarely speak out with this level of enthusiasm for any of our instructors because ALL of our instructors are equally great in teaching their individual craft, so why have I chosen to call attention to one of our instructors Brit Hammer? Simply because of Brit’s ability to transform each of her students’ vision from good to great consistently, time and time again; in part because of her insightful lessons, but I can say unequivocally that Brit’s greatest strength is her in-depth and disarming critique style of each student’s weekly assignments.

This is the most often comment I receive from BPSOP students: ‘Brit’s critiques were the greatest value in this course. The assignments were great, BUT the critiques were by far the most valuable!’

If you have yet to take a class from Brit, consider [this] the best opportunity to grow your photography in ways you have perhaps never imagined!” — Bryan F Peterson

 


 

SIGN UP FOR A FUN CLASS WITH BRIT HAMMER

Finding Beauty

Beautiful Black & White

Authentic Photo Stories

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images

Photography Essentials

Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

** No post processing skills necessary for any of Brit’s courses **

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BRIT

Brit Hammer is an international award-winning photographer, bestselling author, and a celebrated artist whose work is aptly described as fresh and optimistic.

Brit’s students love her intuitive eye, patience, enthusiasm and holistic nurturing because the results are unbelievably incredible and inspiring student growth.

Visit Brit’s website at brithammer.com

Learn more about creative development and one-on-one mentoring with Brit

Follow Brit on Instagram

 

“There are great photographers and great teachers, but it is rare to find a great photographer who’s also a wonderful instructor; Brit embodies that rare combination.” — Tennessee Rick Elliot

My Favorite Quotes: Claude Monet


Since my background is in art and not photography, I studied Art History; among other areas in this field. My favorite painters were the Impressionists, and one of my favorite painters was one of the founders of that movement named Claude Monet. Actually, I really loved all of the Impressionist painters mainly because they saw things differently than the painters that preceded them, and as a result were not accepted for quite a while.

They broke all the rules and as I now tell my fellow photographers that I teach or mentor to.learn all the rules of photography, then as fast as you can… forget about them as they will most certainly lead you down the one way, one lane path to mediocrity…why you ask???? Because rules are impediments that will block your chances of ever observing the environment around you through better vision.

Monet said, ” In order to see, we must forget the name of the thing we’re looking at.”

In my online class with the BPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet, I talk a whole lot on being able to “see past impressions”. In fact, it’s one of my many mantras and it can be so hard to do for people that have spent the majority of their life seeing and doing things with their left brain.

First, a disclaimer: There are those out there that suggest that this is a distorted myth…psycho babble. However, most psychologists agree that there’s enough basis in facts to accept it.

You see, the left side of your brain is the analytical side. Left-brained people tend to be more logical and objective, and rarely see any artistic content. Their photos will tend to be those that are “for the record”. It’s the linear way or the highway for them!!! The right-brained person tends to be more creative, expressive,  and intuitive. Ok, just how does this have anything to do with Monet or my approach to teaching people how to see past their first impressions?

In the photo above, a left-brainer will look up and see a group of traffic signs directing you to either go, avoid, or do something. When I first looked up I immediately saw shapes, as in triangles and one circle. I saw these shapes because for years I’ve trained my eye to “see past my first impression”. As a result I composed my photo to accentuate these important shapes…since Shape is a basic element of Visual Design.

The next time you go out don’t just look at the labels, be sure to taste what’s inside…see past your first impression.

 

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

The Use of Gestalt in Photography

“Get it Right In-Camera” or “Fix-it in Post”?

You have undoubtedly heard both familiar phrases before. “Get it right in camera” is the purist’s view, believing that the only purpose of post-processing is to restore a faithful version of the subject.  “Fix-it-post” on the other hand, holds that the shutter click is only the start of the creative process; post-processing is a valid way to create and extend the message of the original image.  Adherents to the first position hold that any editing beyond the bare minimum renders an image outside the realm of photography; not worthy of a ‘serious’ photographer’s attention.  The ‘Fix-in-post’ crowd looks at the “get-it-right-in-camera” crowd as creatively stunted; out-of-step with the times and the technology.

I’d like to suggest a different approach: sticking exclusively to either view suggests arrogance or laziness, possibly both, and does a disservice to both.

To be sure, there are certain things that must be taken care of in-camera.  Sloppy exposure settings may be correctable in post, but then again, they may not.  Failing to see, and compose to eliminate, distracting elements might be fixable in post, but then again, they may not.   In any case it’s far more efficient to take care of these distractions in camera, than waste significant time in front of a computer screen trying to fix them later.

To put both approaches in context let’s take a look back at the history of photographic processes.

Back when photography meant creating images with black & white film and processing it in a chemical darkroom, many technical and artistic decisions were made well after the film was exposed.  Choices of film developer, processing time and temperature among others affected image contrast and acutance (perceived sharpness).  Choices of printing paper also affected image contrast and tone.  Cropping an image to strengthen the visual relationships or to offer alternative interpretations was considered normal and often necessary.

No less than Ansel Adams used the chemical darkroom to extensively edit his images to achieve his artistic goals.  Consider a contact print, basically an unedited version of the image as captured in camera, (on the right) with a final print of “Moonrise” (on the right), one of his most recognizable images.

Which do you prefer?  Which do you think adheres most closely to the photographer’s vision?

When colour photography arrived, the chemical processes used then (and now) allowed far less opportunity to edit the visual and tonal relationships than was possible in the black & white world.  Photographers had to now concentrate to a far greater extent on controlling these elements as part of the initial production; carefully controlling lighting contrast and colour temperature within the comparatively more limited capabilities of colour film.

And, once colour transparency films become popular, particularly as the newer film stocks filtered down to the increasingly popular 35mm format, the game changed again.  Owing to the small size of the film frame, cropping become largely frowned upon; the loss in quality was just too great for many applications.  On top of that there was now a greater disconnect between the creation of an image in camera and its conversion to published image.  In the past, B&W images were developed and printed either by the photographer or a trusted assistant who worked closely with the photographer to realize his or her vision for an image.  The rise of 35mm transparency film changed this.  In the extreme case a photographer would send the film from an entire shoot off to the client, who would take care of the processing and editing of the images.  National Geographic photographers worked under this model for years, never seeing the processed images until their return to the Nat Geo offices, often months later.  Even absent this approach, photographers came under increasing pressure to “get it right in camera”.  The locked in nature of the film and processing left limited ability to alter colour and contrast.  Since the end-product delivered to the client was the actual piece of film exposed in camera, the photographer simply had to manage contrast and colour in the field.  The small size of the 35mm frame also drove a need to maximize the use of the entire frame, so cropping in camera was essential to creating maximum image quality.

Digital changes all of this.  Control of contrast and colour is now to a greater extent back in hands of the photographer.  As digital photographers we have a range of control over almost every aspect of these qualities with our images that simply was not possible with colour film.  This control is not infinite though; failing to deal with excessive contrast or allowing unwanted distractions against a complex background will mean too much time spent trying to correct these problems in post, often with less than desirable results.  Getting an image as close to perfect in camera will always provide you with a better starting point than failing to deal with technical and aesthetic deficiencies in camera and later trying to correct them in post.   “Getting it right in camera” is still important.  It’s just that thinking of the creative process as done at the moment of exposure is just so darned limiting!

So, how should post-processing fit on to the creative process?  On this Ansel can provide some guidance as well.

Adams was a proponent of previsualizing the final image – seeing it in your mind’s eye, ideally before exposure.  To be sure, this takes lots of experience and a well-developed visual sensibility.  The technical process of capturing an image, shutter speed, aperture choice for example, must be second nature – requiring little conscious thought.   After the moment of exposure, post processing can play a large role in moving from the merely objective to a more subjective level of image making.  Ansel referred to the objective form of image making as an “External Event”, describing an approach to image making reflected in saying,

“I came, I saw, I snapped”.

This is mostly about “memory preservation”, birthdays and annual vacations for example.   Beyond this, Adams elevated image making to an “Internal Event”:

“I came, I saw, I interpreted and visualized”.

Previsualizing what you want the viewer to see in your image — what you are trying to communicate about your subject, allows you to look past what a subject merely looks like… to what it feels like; to the emotional response you want to elicit in a viewer.  Image making then becomes more a process of communicating thoughts and feelings about a subject than merely recording a likeness.  An approach to image making that is wholly based in the “Get it right in camera” sensibility eliminates the possibility of creatively using the tools available in post to this end.

In no way am I suggesting that creative, interpretive photography in the digital age requires the use of the tools in post-processing — far from it.   Ansel Adams didn’t create iconic images of the American West simply because he was exceptionally proficient in the darkroom, he produced iconic images because he used the tools of the darkroom to realize in print, that which he had previsualized in his mind, either at the moment of exposure, or later as he worked with the image in “post”.  In the same way, digital post-processing simply provides an additional set of tools to realize a photographer’s intention, her pre-visualized intent for an image.

A different kind of Lightroom Course…

Lightroom is merely a tool.  No different than a new lens, a filter, or a studio light.  Using any tool begins with understanding what you are trying to accomplish; understanding the problems that need to be fixed, choosing the appropriate tool and lastly, knowing how to use it.

In my course, “After the Click” I encourage participants to stop thinking of the tools in the Lightroom Develop module as a technical exercise carried out in rote fashion.  There is a reason why you stopped to raise your camera to your eye to capture an image; something about the subject, the arrangement of visual elements or perhaps the light that stopped you in her tracks.   The first step in realizing the potential in an image, is understanding what you are trying to communicate to a viewer.  It’s often not so easy to define clearly for yourself what it is you are trying to say.  Sometimes an image may not be about a pleasing arrangement of shape line and colour; sometimes a mood is the thing you are trying to communicate.

A few years ago, I spent several days in Pienza, a magical town at the northern edge of the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany.  Via Santa Caterina to the west of the old town forms the local evening “passeggiata” and affords spectacular views of the valley to south.  The Villa and roadway in the image on the left was photographed from up here using a 300mm lens (FF equivalent).  Shooting through almost a mile of late afternoon haze tends to kill off a lot of contrast, leaving the image a quite flat with excessively cool shadows.

From my vantage point above the valley, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of warmth and tranquility created by light of the approaching sunset as it swept across the land.  Using the tools in Lightroom (on the right) allowed me to recreate more closely the feeling of being there than was the case with the straight out of camera image.

In the end, I’d like to suggest a different approach.  Neither the “Get it Right” crowd, or the “Fix-it in Post” crowd are wrong; but neither is right either.  “Get it right as possible in-camera” will always be the best starting point for creative refinement. However, being too dogmatic about it gives up the creative possibilities offered by thoughtful post processing.  In the past there was no good choice other than getting it right in camera. This is no longer the case.  However, relying on post to correct basic composition or exposure is at best, laziness and lack of attention to craft.  At worst, it suggests the image maker hasn’t thought about what they are trying to say… or perhaps that they have nothing to say at all.

My point in all this is simply to say that dismissing extensive but thoughtful post processing out of hand is to place limits on photographic expression that is artificial.  To justify these limits by drawing a box around photography and dismissing anything outside that box prevents photography from evolving,  and just as importantly ignores the history of photographic processes.

I’m absolutely certain that were Ansel Adams alive today, he would be all over the possibilities of digital post processing.

-BPSOP Instructor – Mark English

Mark Teaches:

After the Click: Refining Your Vision in Lightroom & Camera Raw

The Art of Printing & Selling Your Art

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  • I would like to thank you Monika and Patrik for your great comments and great class lessons. I have gotten a lot of new ideas for shooting flora to try out. And your comments have helped me look at my images a little closer before I press the shutter button. I'm happy I took this class!! Read More
    Sunny Marker Photographing Flora
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