No Flower Shots, Please

The Grid on Kelby TV with Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski.

Just kidding, but see what the experts say.

This video is for anyone that really, really cares about the quality of images that they take (like I want to be), but it will be helpful to those just looking to improve (like I am trying).

The famous Photoshop guys, top-notch photographers, and top authors on Photography, tell you of five images that you should not include in a portfolio if you want a career in photography (not exactly sure why on a couple). They do say one of them is OK for Facebook, meow. (Of course, I had to post the one subject they said was OK for FB, Ode to the Kitty Photo). Find out what are the five and guess what, one is FLOWERS.

I was really surprised on this one, but from their discussion, I can understand a bit why. They do go on to tell you what makes a good flower shot, but also note that one should be very selective when choosing what, when and how to shoot.

They tell you what makes a good landscape shot, too. I have been reading a lot about this type of photography because it really is a hard one to master. It is more for the reason of avoiding a snapshot look than anything, but their tips on composition are very good. Another pointer is to watch the horizon line.

They show you side by side examples with a less than spectacular shot as the basis for discussion. They bring up great shots to show you what makes them good.  It is an hour-long show, but if you want to improve your flower images, see this video. I know I learned quite a bit, and my flower photos are OK but could be so much better from what I saw.

I had noticed that GGW had quite a few photography enthusiasts on their recent¬†post. I am hoping this post referencing the video will help fill a desire for more learning. I am an ardent fan of Saxon Holt because he is great at explaining photo tips and techniques. He is a wonderful photographer too. The video is in the same vein as Saxon’s great posts with loads of advice that you can understand by example.

I had to include one photo (cropped to be off-center, the original wasn’t {a no no} in the post Spring in the Blink of an Eye ) so WP would pick up the post under Photography, but I humbly bow to the masters and appreciate their advice. Join them in the video critique.

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About Donna Brok

Love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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39 Responses to No Flower Shots, Please

  1. b-a-g says:

    Donna – I couldn’t get the video to work on my computer. Even though I’m not pursuing a career in photography, I’m curious to know what the 5 things are ?
    Last week I discovered that Blogger has a 1G limit on uploading photos free of charge. Up till now I have been uploading loads of photos with high definition. It’s made me think about what images I use and how many pixels are really necessary to convey my message.

    • You can always hit the YouTube logo in the lower right of the video and get taken right to the main feed to play. I don’t want to spoil the suspense of learning the five things for other readers, sorry. I never heard this before and it is well known by pros apparently. I feel bad that flowers are included. They seem pretty interesting to me as a composition, but their point that all flowers are beautiful and it is harder to take a bad photo of them is well taken. They mentioned that on landscapes, the simplest thing to do is shoot a great location, and at the right time, plus a lot of other more useful tips.

      I too am not pursuing a career, but since blogging and the GGW contest, realized I want to create nicer images, so I have been reading many photo blogs. Weird thing though, through WP, photographers came to my site, some subscribing, that is how I started finding all these other interesting and informative blogs. I have followed the Photoshop guys for many years, but only for Photoshop. Now I follow their photography careers too. I have not gotten their books yet though. I am waiting for the iPad version.

  2. When I have time to sit and watch, I am very interested to hear and see what the video is all about. All of us are working to improve our photos (mainly so I can better capture the beauty in the garden, in my case). This means flower shots … LOTS of flower shots … which is okay with me. The landscape lesson should be useful, because garden photos, or anything besides a close-up vignette, is really hard to do well

    • Connie, their tips for landscapes were really useful. You are so right, big open landscapes are difficult to do. I especially need tips here for my professional design work. I rarely shot client’s properties because I cannot take good wide angle photos of them.

      I find that any images taken at the Falls come out looking like a tourist shot in my case pretty often. I know that it is partly where I live, but it is also lack of creative framing and exposure. I find myself gravitating towards really good photography, like I find on your blog for instance. You pick interesting subjects and show them in different ways.

  3. Indie says:

    Thanks for the video link! I’ll have to sit and watch it when I have the time. While I’m certainly not pursuing a career in photography, I find photography to be so interesting and a fun accompaniment to being out in nature. Some tips to make my pictures better are always welcome!

    • Do watch it if you get time. The guys are funny and entertaining too. Their previous critique caused some commotion with viewers thinking they were too harsh. I did not think they were mean and am planning to send in some images for their critique. I just have to figure out when the live show airs. I love when people tell me what I am doing that needs improvement. I do know the one about not centering the subject, but I always break this one for some reason. It is just laziness in setting up the shot in camera. I saw that in one of their examples and realized I just don’t take enough time for better positioning.

  4. thx Donna…I love learning but not sure any amount of this advice will help my photos…but I keep trying…

    • They say right in the video it has little to do with the expense of the equipment and only one image they showed was taken with a $5000 camera. The tips are more about how to take good photos by making good photo/compositional choices. Your photos are very nice taken with your point and shoot. So you can still benefit from viewing if you choose. Many others use images supporting a story, kinda secondary to the body of the post, so they would not really get much from the video. I included this video because I was really surprised that taking photos of flowers for portfolio use was not recommended by professionals, unless that was your main source of business. With garden blogs, that is the BUSINESS I must say. But how often does one get a request to buy a photo of a flower I guess was a point they were making for the pros.

  5. I haven’t had a chance to watch the entire video yet, but I will later today. I had to laugh at the critique of the deer photographs. Yes, it’s a gorgeous shot with the buck reaching for the branch, but coordinating perfect light, with a perfect background, and the subject in an ideal position, actively doing something…it’s not easy to get all those variables to come together at the same time when you’re photographing wildlife! I think any great animal shot is at least 75% luck! That said though, it is a great video, and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest. The advantage of photographing flowers is they can’t run away!

    • I was laughing at the deer photos too. First the little Bambies, then their selection of the great deer image. That is a once in a lifetime shot, not one to run across on the farm anytime soon. I see deer all the time at the farm, wild and tame, and never once saw them do much very interesting. The wild ones would never stand there for you to take an image like that unless you were in a hunting blind. Even down wind of them, I only snuck up on a wild pair once, and then did not have my camera set for wildlife, but wildflowers. But the guys do pick some great images. I went to 500px and loaded five photos. I want to see if they pick me for the next critique. I loaded two flower photos too!

  6. HolleyGarden says:

    My camera broke (I dropped it), and so I’ve been using my husband’s camera. It takes much better pictures, and I find I my desire to learn how to shoot flowers and landscapes has now increased tremendously! Amazing what a difference a good camera will make in one’s attitude! By the way, I know there are mixed feelings about awards, but I am giving your blog The Sunshine Award because I appreciate you. I hope you will take it as a compliment. The post is here: http://dreamingofroses.blogspot.com/2012/04/delivery.html

    • Thank you very much Holley. I appreciate you selecting my blog for the award. I only wish I had time to participate in picking blogs too. My time gets more open after summer. I will visit and mention you (link to your blog too) on my next post. I agree a better camera does boost up the confidence. Sometime I will post what is in my camera bag so everyone who has asked previously can see what I use. I have decent equipment, but someday want to graduate to a full frame camera. They are the ones costing 3k and up. Sadly, that is beyond my abilities in experience and my pocketbook without having income from the hobby.

  7. Barbie says:

    Yup – my hubby has seen all of Mat Klowskowski’s Photoshop tutorials! He is a genius, so it is good to follow what an expert advises, but let it not stifle your creativity.

    • Never!!! Matt provides tools and tips to jump start creativity is how I look at it. Scott, on the other hand is great for photo advice. I do try to follow him to the letter. His studio work is amazing. I did some studio work in college and lighting is an art.

  8. jakesprinter says:

    I love your Macro shot my friend ,stunning photo :)

  9. I would like to take a photography class to get the most out of my good camera. Most the pics on my blog this past year or so have been with my small point and shoot camera. I Iike having the camera in my pocket for the next photo-op that I happen upon. Imagine my pics would be lots better if I knew what I was doing. ;-)

    • I always said I wanted to take classes from Saxon Holt. But the travel??? I did have the opportunity to attend Photoshop World this year and the class I wanted to take was Painting With Light, taught by the best in the business, Dave Black. I would not have missed attending Scott’s and Matt’s classes either. I would have been so outclassed by the attendees, but that never stopped me before. Everyone has to start somewhere when getting serious about a hobby or career. But, work always gets in the way when I make travel plans.

      I too have small camera, but after getting a larger DSLR never use it anymore. It really is a great size and did take some wonderful images, but I did miss the manual settings from a film camera.

  10. Yes, I agree that landscape shots and moving subjects are really tough to photograph! That’s why I enjoy photographing plants, because they’re beautiful to start with and they don’t move! But any advice is welcome–it helps me think in a new way and experiment with different methods. I always try to use the “rule of thirds” and other basic techniques. Frankly, Donna, your photos are already exceptional. Check out this link for some other thoughts: http://bit.ly/h9AOJl. I suppose most garden bloggers would agree that flower shots are an integral part of their posts. But if we want to be professional photographers, I guess we should use different shots for our portfolios. ;-)

    • Thanks for the link. They put it in easy to understand terms and all in one place. Every time an image is cropped in Photoshop, I have it set up to show Rule of Thirds to reposition the subject in the frame. This is where I often ignore the option. The guys in the video mentioned ‘Knowing the rules and doing something different purposefully, and also just plain ignoring the rules’. I am not sure where I fit because I know them but tend to ignore them often.

  11. You always have fabulous advice on photography. You inspire me to improve. :)

  12. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, I watched the video with interest. I must agree with a lot that was said and the reverse critiques seemed to reinforce everything I have learned the hard way.
    I sometimes get stuck trying to shoot mid-day and I have honestly come to think that it is a bit of a waste of time. It can be tricky however trying to persuade someone to get up at dawn to let you in to take photos!
    I especially paid attention to the comments about aiming for softer shadows. This is a fault that I often find in my own work.
    I still plan to shoot flowers, even if it is somewhat of a mistake in their eyes….

    • I am a perpetual mid-day shooter too, but not by choice. But one thing I learned from the video, there are ways to make the most of it, even if it is not ideal. Another thing I do with some images where lighting plays havoc, I stack them at differing exposures in Photoshop, providing I have a tripod with me to make sure the images stack exactly. That way in Photoshop, I can make lighting and hue adjustments on each layer to make one composite that is interesting. I don’t do this for blog posts though and have a tendency just to post a poor image to support my text. My weather posts are like that. I race outside and point and shoot. Rarely are any of these images decent.

  13. AngryRedhead says:

    I agreed with them on many of the points they made, but I got rather annoyed by their attitude that subject matters far more than photographic skill. Granted, for a truly amazing, end-all-be-all shot, the subject has to be just as amazing as the skill, but they even broke their own rule by loving the tiny “waterfall” that you could find hundreds of places or the water lily. I dunno. It rubbed me the wrong way when they compared the three “average” looking women to other women and said that the photographers went wrong with their choice of subject and went on and on and on… In my opinion, an excellent photographer should be able to make anyone or anything look intriguing and beautiful, and a poor photographer can completely destroy the most intriguing and beautiful subjects. For example, the woman with the frizzy hair had a dated feel to the photography style. It was a glamor shot you would get at the mall back in the 1990s (or earlier), and that same photographer could have done the same with any of the models they’d proposed. I’m saying this as a total amateur, but I don’t foresee myself ever accepting that particular attitude especially if you consider a lot of very famous photographers who took overlooked and neglected subjects and did beautiful and wonderful things and made others see why those subjects were special. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a camera is a photographer’s eye…

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and careful assessment. I too thought they placed too much on the subject. Yes, we choose our subjects, but don’t always have the occasion to get that ‘special’ image. The deer image, case in point. I see more deer than most people and they are rarely doing much of anything. Getting them in special light is hard too when I see them in the darkened woods. It is not like you can say, ‘Hey deer, let’s try over here.’

      That small water fall I do disagree on though. Yes, they are everywhere, but that setting and lighting in the shot were wonderful. To me, she may have staged that shot. Those perfect fall leaves were just too perfect. Getting them placed in the one beam of light seemed a little too opportunistic. The water lily shot was special because of the angle of view. How many of us lay at water level for that shot, mostly only professions do. I have tried these low angle views and they are not as easy as they look. Other stuff keeps getting in your way and my camera is not getting down to water level. Pros often have tilt shift lenses which help with these hard to take photos, like tall buildings for instance. Knowing and having the right equipment really helps those that know how to use it.

      Well, you had to admit, fur lady could have had a more pleasing expression. The lighting did not soften her look either. I don’t think they were referring to her age, because, in a previous video, they selected a portrait of a woman in her eighties and raved how wonderful was that image. I agree, it is easy to destroy good shots with inexperience. I have taken images that I know compositionally are good, but some technical aspect prevented me having the shot. But that happens to seasoned pros too I bet.

      I know Scott can be especially abrasive, but he does it with humor at least. He is a top photographer and is friends with some of the best shooters of our time. On his show and blog he interviews these photographers and I find these posts and videos fascinating.

      Matt, in one of the videos, (this one maybe), mentioned that art is subjective and cannot be said to be ‘bad’, mainly because art is for those that see it that way. There is plenty of contemporary art I think is crap that sits in galleries or in metropolitan plazas, but someone else might view as a masterpiece. I think their criticism was directed more at the photographer for choosing to take poor images. If you really want to hear the guys on a roll, view a previous Grid Episode 42 where they discuss, “How to Tell if You Suck at Photography”

      • AngryRedhead says:

        I don’t think we disagreed about the waterfall or the lily – I thought they were beautiful shots so I was pointing out that the subjects were pretty common. It wasn’t the subject so much as the skill, which can, at least in my head, include curating a scene and sitting there for hours waiting for something awesome to happen, but the guys were critiquing the submitted photos about their choice of subject. Granted the guys did offer some suggestions of how the shots could have been improved without changing the subject, but I didn’t notice these suggestions with the portraits of the women except that if you have an ugly subject, you should shoot her from behind so no one has to see her ugly mug.

        I watched Episode 42 (or at least most of it), and I didn’t have a lot of beef with what they said. And yes, I know I suck at photography. My issue with Episode 48 actually doesn’t have a whole lot to do with photography, and if it does, it’s more the culture (differential treatment), not the format/skill/art/essence. Sorry for any confusion!

        • No confusion really. We did agree on most of your points. You are so right, setting up a shot does take skill and so does recognizing opportunity. All photographers do this in studio. In college, I assisted in a studio, so there is a lot of tricks to make product photography better. I have an advertising background pre-architecture, and remember all the stuff that was done to make something sell in print.

          Wildlife photographers probably don’t stage so much though. But, I even moved a bee once from one leaf to another to get better lighting when her suitor returned to do the nasty. I know that is against all wildlife ethics, but I wanted to complete the story rolling around in my head of one girl Carpenter bee and her many suitors, which I did not know happens in nature.

          Oh, I laughed reading about the ugly girl because now, I do remember Matt saying to shoot them from behind. But, I bet the girl with the long flowing veil was not an ugly girl. I think I forgot he said that since I did not think the girl was ugly. That was tactless and not really good advice. Now every time he shoots a girl from behind, the girl might be wondering.

          I always skip through their episodes past the ads right to the good commentary. Was it Episode 42 that talked about Flickr and all the gushy comments? I have to write into them that my photos never get comments. I do not have a Pro account, which I think gets you noticed, but the photos get many views which makes me kinda sad. But on the site the guys discussed, 500px, the photography is better and they display your images really large. I have been getting comments for only have joined for two days now. I am bidding Flickr goodbye. I was hoping that the commenters would say how to improve, but they still say nice image and the like.

          I thought it would take guts to tell anyone their image sucks. But, I do believe people should be a tad more honest. False praise is pointless. I hope they pick one of my images on 500px to rant about on their show. I know I would learn a lot.

          • AngryRedhead says:

            They talked a lot about Facebook and, I think, a little about Flickr. I think most people, especially online, are hesitant to critique unless it’s specifically requested, and it takes time to assess a piece of work and type constructive criticism. If I think back to editing papers, I much preferred to tell people that their paper was awesome than to write out all the flaws and suggestions for improvement in addition to their strengths so they didn’t feel destroyed. Of course, that doesn’t mean if you get praised, then it’s just someone being lazy because the laziest thing someone can do is keep on clicking and not bother to comment at all.

            500px comes up constantly in StumbleUpon (SU) for me, and there are loads of inspiring shots. Actually, in case you haven’t tried it, I think stumbling the photography section of SU would help improve skills because you get to see loads of stuff from all over the net ranging from techniques and tutorials to drop-dead-gorgeous shots. Plus SU is fun! I discover all kinds of stuff that I wouldn’t normally encounter.

            • Thanks, I see StumbleUpon come in showing they got to my blog from there, but I never could figure out how. I never signed up and was wondering if it is similar to Pinterest. I am a member there, but never once pinned anything.

              I agree, criticism and critiques can be given without destroying a person. In architecture school, critiques are very important and very nasty in many cases. We actually had 2 people quit with nervous breakdowns (whatever that technically is) and one suicide. I was lucky to avoid the wrath, but always thought it very damaging. In the critique, you could not defend your work and had to take the abuse from professors and students alike. And many times, students were told to get another career.

              Oh, and you mentioned clicking and not commenting. I cannot comment on many blogs now and I bet many think I have just clicked and had nothing to say. WP has an issue they cannot or will not repair. I had to get a Google account just to comment, but not all blogs have this option in the list. When I do comment this way, Google does not show my blog link even though I have it listed in the preferences. I lost many Blotanical readers because I cannot comment on certain blogs. So, if you have experienced less comments, this maybe the reason with so many WP blogs out there. Thanks again for the info on SU.

  14. Bom says:

    Thanks for the link, Donna. I have yet to watch the video but I will definitely do so as soon as time permits.

    • Bom, it really is an eye opener how the guys characterize what photographers choose to shoot. They mentioned it in other Episodes too, that flowers are not what a ‘good’ photographer should be shooting. Railroad tracks too. Was there not some iconic image by a very famous photographer that had the subject on railroad tracks? That one shocked me more than flowers.

  15. deborahelliott says:

    An hour long! OK, I’m going to watch it! I make no claims to any sort of professionalism when it comes to my photos, but I do want to make shots that are enjoyable for blog readers and that portray my garden in its best light. So I am off to watch the masters and learn. Thanks!

    • The video does not have much about flowers because I think they felt they would offend since there are quite a few flower photographers. They had no problem disparaging cat photos though. The flower photo example they showed was boring and common, yet the lily was also common, but taken at an uncommon view, making it more interesting and important. Then they had a very colorful flower I did not know, and for that reason alone, I thought it interesting. The photo of it was a bit above average I thought. So, flowers are common and all flowers are pretty. Or at least, that is what I gathered from their comments. But they did have useful info from other subjects that could be applied to all types of shooting. I really think some of the info from the show is great to know. I know they were saying quite a bit of things that I feel as well.

      • deborahelliott says:

        After watching the video, I will say I really enjoyed it. I get their point that a photographer’s professional portfolio should go beyond the ordinary, thus avoid common subjects like cats and flowers. That doesn’t mean one can’t take great shots of cats and flowers. Just don’t put them in a portfolio. I had to laugh; I think one of my best photos ever was of a cat! I do think a lot of their advice was excellent.

        • Those guys are really informative and entertaining. They are opinionated too. Scott’s series of books on Photography are the top selling photography books of all time. I saw that on one of his shows. Pretty impressive considering how many photography books are in print.

  16. AngryRedhead says:

    That comment thread was getting a little long…

    SU is more like an internet tool than a site. More like a super savvy Google and less like Pinterest. And it learns what you like as you “I like it!” to some content and not to other content. Be warned that it’s not something to mess with if you’re hoping to increase your blog views. It can backfire. However, if you’re relaxing from the day and wanting to do some random internet browsing, it’s awesome! My husband would watch me stumble, and it got soooo annoying that I finally made him sign up and get the StumbleUpon Toolbar on his computer’s browser.

    Those kinds of critiques are absurd and counterproductive, and they reflect more on the criticizer than on the person they’re criticizing because trauma breeds trauma and they’re continuing the cycle of abuse they received as students. There is a definite art to critiquing someone/something in a way that will be well-received – you can tell anyone just about anything if you phrase and time it correctly. So ya, I don’t have a lot of patience for people who are careless and mean with the feelings of others. For the doubters, no, it’s not coddling (speaking generally here, not specifically to you), but it is cruel to have no regard or respect or sympathy for others.

    I got a drop in comments after I took a VERY long hiatus from blogging (and gardening), but my blog has never attracted many visitors or comments. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time commenting. To be honest, I’m impressed you comment on my blog (and other blogs) as often as you do because I don’t know of too many other bloggers as prolific as you who take the time to do that. Kudos!

    • I can see how it would backfire if you get too many not liking, say a blog post. I will have to look into it, but I still am not sure how my blog got on the map there.

      I did get to do some teaching at the university, but really had a hard time being so critical. Design has ‘rules’ to follow, but art is more subjective. And architecture does have a lot of rules. It is fine to say how to better a design, but there is always something to say positive to lessen the sting of pointing out the failings.

      I do try to comment when I visit blogs, but between how slow Blotanical has been and the WP issue, it seems more like work lately than fun visiting. I have been limiting my visiting to those visiting here mostly until both Blotanical and WP get straightened out. I found even though losing readers from Blotanical, that my readership has been up anyway which is good. Hope that happens on your blog too.

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