Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: street photography

6 Tips to Make Great Photographs with the iPhone 6

This shot was taken while I was at a stop light sitting on my Vespa. I looked up and the drama of the clouds struck me. I slipped the phone out of my pocket pointed it straight up and make this shot. It looked good in color, but the B&W was more dramatic.

This shot was taken while I was at a stop light sitting on my Vespa. I looked up and the drama of the clouds struck me. I slipped the phone out of my pocket pointed it straight up and make this shot. It looked good in color, but the B&W was more dramatic.

When you leave home and hit the road, be it for work, play, or pretty much anything you set out t do, you should always carry a camera. There is a photographic axiom that says, “What is the best camera? The camera you have with you!” and that is undeniably true. The camera you will sling over your shoulder is going to change over the years and a new camera can stimulate you and put you into a photo-taking mood by simply being new. The technology changes, and even the great masters used a range of cameras across thier careers.

Taken at dusk on a bridge over the Arno River in Florence. I pushed the saturation to give it extra punch. I also shot this with my trusty Fuji XPro1, but made the same shot with the IPhone so I could tag and share it by the time I steppe off the bridge.

Taken at dusk on a bridge over the Arno River in Florence. I pushed the saturation to give it extra punch. I also shot this with my trusty Fuji XPro1, but made the same shot with the IPhone so I could tag and share it by the time I steppe off the bridge.

But sometimes you leave your camera at home because it’s just too heavy and cumbersome. Compositions and photo movements abound, just because you don’t have your camera with you doesn’t mean you aren’t seeing and the photo opportunities are not present. Three things you don’t leave at home that are non-negotiable are; keys, wallet and mobile phone. The camera & phone combo may be the greatest technological achievement of the 21st century because it allows us to always have a camera with us, and the ability to share our images.

Keep your eyes open when walking and when you see something interesting, bam! You can capture faster than you can call your mom. Construction site for Hudson Yards project in NYC.

Keep your eyes open when walking and when you see something interesting, bam! You can capture faster than you can call your mom. Construction site for Hudson Yards project in NYC.

My only ‘photo-phone’ experience so far has been using the Apple iPhone, so if you are going to call me an Apple fan boy, go ahead, I accept that moniker because I believe in the iPhone and started off with an iPhone 3 in 2007. The first photo I took was a homeless person in a atm bank lobby. Later I would shoot what might have been the first IPhone wedding of NY fashion designer Michele Korn using only the IPhone 3. I fell in love with the device, simply because it was always in my pocket! Dutifully I went from iPhone 3, to 4, to 4s, skipped a 5 and got the 6 early in 2015. The progression has been upward, but the 6 was a big leap in quality from its predecessors. All images shown in this blog post were taken this year with the IPhone 6.

Still Life with the IPhone, you bet! This was a homage to Edward Weston's pepper. I added the cherry tomatoes to give the image a set of balls ;-)

Still Life with the IPhone, you bet! This was a homage to Edward Weston’s pepper. I added the cherry tomatoes to give the image a set of balls 😉

So here are my 6 recommendations:

One- Wipe you lens off each time you go to make a photograph. That lens is tiny, and you need it as clean as can be to maintain sharpness. A finger print will substantially soften the image and lower contrast. An actual smudge or what we call “schmutz” in New York will diffuse your image to the point of total failure. Use your t-shirt, a tissue, or whatever you have handy. Of course a micro fiber is the best choice. My wife Barbara keeps her iPhone in a micro fiber pouch to protect it in her pocket book from scratches and that makes a great way to keep the lens smudge and scratch free.

Nikki Sixx on tour with Six AM. I was about 15 feet back and did cropped in post. The colors were awful as most concert photography is, so I just converted to black and white.

Nikki Sixx on tour with Six AM. I was about 15 feet back and cropped in post. The colors were awful as most concert photography is, so I just converted to black and white.

Two- Be touchy. Your phone does have auto-focus and auto-exposure, but it can get fooled. Compose your image first, and then tap on the subject of your photo. Once you have a focus and exposure lock, you can then drag your finger up or down to adjust exposure. Very useful for backlit subjects and in that case, touch up for + exposure. This will come handy when you are shooting at the beach or in a snow scene.

Little_round_top

View from Little Round Top over the Valley of Death at Gettysburg, PA. This is a great example of working the exposure. I tapped the cannon and then had to further adjust the exposure due to the setting sun in the photo.

Three- Capture with the standard camera setting. Don’t bother with the HDR mode, it’s better to adjust your image later in a post-processing app which we will talk about later. The standard photo is a 4:3 ratio which will give you a standard image. You might want to consider shooting in square mode if you plan on using instagram, since instagram forces you to use square compositions. This will save you having to crop later and perhaps missing a part of the image that you wanted in or is needed for the composition. Getting it as close to perfect in the capture, then fine tuning later in post is a great rule of thumb.

I saw this composition across the street and waited about 3 minutes for the traffic to clear. Look close, they are all on their phones! I corrected the perspective in Snapseed to make the lines all straight.

I saw this composition across the street and waited about 3 minutes for the traffic to clear. Look close, All but one (who is eating) are on their phones! I corrected the perspective in Snapseed to make the lines all straight.

Four- Turn the flash off. Yup, unless it is really dark, like the inside of club or outside at night and you are shooting a subject less than 7 feet away, the flash (which is really a led light and not a flash at all) will make a crappy photo. There are three settings, off, on, and auto. By default it’s on auto out of the box, you will want to set that to off. I never ever use the flash function, I hate the way it looks. A trick to use if you must shoot in the dark, is have a friend hold up their iPhone and use it as a flash light. This way, the angle of light gives shape as opposed to your flash right next to the lens making a flat over exposed image.

Go ahead, be that person who posts their food, but make sure it looks good! If you can't shoot your dish in good light then just don't. Use the table cloth to add to the ambiance, feel free to arrange the salt shaker and utensils so it looks good. Never use the flash!

Go ahead, be that person who posts their food, but make sure it looks good! If you can’t shoot your dish in good light then just don’t. Use the table cloth to add to the ambiance, feel free to arrange the salt shaker and utensils so it looks good. Never use the flash!

Five- Use minimal if any zoom. Any zooming you do by pinching the image will digitally zoom it, and it’s better to just do that in a post app. I advocate if you are good with composition to use a little bit of zoom if you can’t physically get closer, like a shooting a building across a busy street, but really cropping should be done in post to maintain quality. When you have to 8 to 12 megapixels like the iPhone has, you have plenty of pixels to crop in post. Also, your focus can be tricked if you zoom heavily.

Street shooting with the IPhone you never miss a shot. Just keep an eye on the street signs so you don't get a ticket ;-)

Street shooting with the IPhone you never miss a shot. Just keep an eye on the street signs so you don’t get a ticket 😉

Six- Use the best app ever invented, and that is Snapseed. Invented by Nik and then acquired by Google, Snapseed does it all. I love Snapseed because it’s free, and it’s spectacular. I used to advocate Adobe PS Express and Camera bag but Google has super charged Snapseed into a beast of an app. And did I mention it’s free? Every image you see on this page was captured with the iPhone, then opened up with Snapseed and edited. I suggest you subscribe to this blog, I’ll be posting a Snapseed tutorial soon.

NY Harbor from a tall building in Battery Park. the Drama filter in Snapseed just really brings out the rays of light and clouds.

NY Harbor from a tall building in Battery Park. the Drama filter in Snapseed just really brings out the rays of light and clouds.

Well there you have it. Six tips to make you iPhone experience rock. Keep shooting!

~David

The house I summered in when I was a kid in the 70's. Bradley Beach.

The house I summered in when I was a kid in the 70’s. Bradley Beach.

ArmsLength

And lastly, my two favorite things to shoot, Barbara my wife and the Raven Wing my Harley Davidson.

wooden bridge and harleyvespa

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Seven Steps to Self Editing Your Work

Looking up to Montmarte, Paris. Canon Power Shot A70

Looking up to Montmarte, Paris. Canon Power Shot A70

The most difficult aspect of Photography to master is Picture Image Editing. You can learn to shoot better, to expose properly, to capture composition, achieve perfect timing, master the light, focus on details and blur what you don’t want. You will have to ensure you are in the right place at the golden hour, always coaxing gesture from subjects and understanding the camera you hold in your hands, these are all hallmarks of a great photographer. You can learn these things by shooting a whole lot, or you can fast track an be taught in schools and workshops. However there is one skill that can’t be taught, its importance is paramount, yet is seldom discussed in the arsenal of photographic skills, that of picture editing.

Paris in April. Canon Power Shot A70

Paris in April. Canon Power Shot A70

I’m not referring to post editing, as in using Light Room, DxO, or even Photoshop to crop and adjust, I’m suggesting editing in the sense of “I have these 748 pictures and which ones are the best”? Self-editing is very difficult, I see poor editing while reviewing photographers work frequently and especially among the new photographers. When you have to choose 3 images from your archive, it’s an art all itself to make the right picks.

Notre Dame. This was shot with the Canon Power Shot A70 and heavily worked in photoshop to correct perspective and monochrome convert.

Notre Dame. This was shot with the Canon Power Shot A70 and heavily worked in photoshop to correct perspective and monochrome convert.

The following seven elements are what I have learned to use over the years. They have served me well and this post is populated with images I found in my archive, never before published pulled up just for use here. Some go back 12 years.

One: Take a page from Ansel Adams and pre-visualize the best shot that can be made from the scene before you. Ansel worked with large format cameras and they force you to get it right with an economy of shutter snaps. Contemplate the image in front of you and take time realizing the elements that will make a solid photograph. Resist a haphazard approach like overshooting in the hopes that one image will have a correct horizon and cloud will be in the just the right place. All this creates is a clutter of files and essentially- a bigger haystack to find the best shot.

Two: Archive or develop as soon as possible. Get the images off the card or the film processed before image anarchy occurs. Cluttered memory cards, unprocessed rolls of film in drawers, make bad for editing.

Three: Soak up a good look at what you have shot. This can start a healthy review of work via the playback button the camera. Don’t be afraid to pixel peep (zooming into the image) to check for proper focus. You have a succession of very similar shots, and one or two missed the mark for focus, but the other shots are tack sharp, feel free to delete the softies right out of the camera. I have found that I can edit very well right off the camera in most circumstances. I like to use a Hoodman Hood Loupe if I decide to pack it, it’s fairly cumbersome but it’s great at isolating your point of view when using the camera LCD.

Four: However you archive, be it Adobe Lightroom or manually like me, do it the same way, set up a consistent file structure and keep two hard drives or a raid as a back up. Name the shoot, and I also will date it too. Once the images are off the card, or processed and scanned, run through them again. Pick out a few favorites. Open them up and do a little post editing.

Five: Show them off and get some opinions. Throw them up on Face Book, tweet ‘em, Instagram them (even though I hate Instagram). My rule when I put up a shot on my Facebook if it gets over 100 likes then I know I nailed it.

Six: Move on. Forget about them. Work on your next shot. When you are ready to do something with them, and need them, make sure you have them properly cataloged on your drives so they are easy to locate for when you need them.

Seven: Dive back in fresh and do what really is your third edit. Based on your internal instinct and some reactions from your network look at your edit again, and also, the un-edited archive. You might very well have missed something. Become friends with this edit, improve on them with post processing. If you need to narrow them down further, set them up in folder for your screen saver and then your monitors become a “familiarization device” to better understand which are the strongest images. I learned this trick from Jock Sturges.

Union Square Pogo dance action. I recall shooting this, then dumping into a folder and forgetting about it. When I found it again I was thrilled to post edit and have a solid NYC street shot. A gem, hidden in a seldom used hardrive.

Union Square Pogo dance action. I recall shooting this, then dumping into a folder and forgetting about it. When I found it again I was thrilled to post edit and have a solid NYC street shot. A gem, hidden in a seldom used hardrive.

In summary, don’t shoot so much, go for quality not quantity and ask your network what they think of the images, then sit on them for awhile and keep shooting, return to them and look at your edit and the un-edited again. My last tip is that frequently, a crop is in order. Many a good image can be overlooked but stands out with a good crop. They say it’s all in the eyes.

I honestly don't know who's eye this is. I found a folder nested deeply among other folders with about 10 different eyes. I barely recall shooting this.

I honestly don’t know who’s eye this is. I found a folder nested deeply among other folders with about 10 different eyes. I barely recall shooting this.

~David

Climbing the Mountain – Thoughts on Finding Photographic Style

Rancho Los Cruces, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico. Sony RX10

Rancho Los Cruces, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico. Sony RX10

The Mountain. No, I’m not talking about a character form a George Martin novel or a Janes Addiction song. I’m talking about a vast project and desire to create something amazing. The Mountain is all the work ahead of you, all the plans, the complications, the raw effort. The Mountain soars in front of you, its height is dizzying and when you are in the shadow of the mountain the temptation to do nothing, to not try to move forward freezes you. Letting the mountain daunt you will be the equivalent of rolling over and going back to sleep, thus condemning you work to photographic mediocrity. But you are stronger; you will climb the mountain and figure out how to let your photographic voice soar in an orgy of style that will define your photography!

Adapting to the brutal winter of 2014 in NYC. Fujifilm Xpro1 18 mm f2.0

Adapting to the brutal winter of 2014 in NYC. Fujifilm Xpro1 18 mm f2.0

The way to go over the mountain of work ahead of you is actually quite easy. Take one step at a time and keep moving. I would now like to introduce you to something everyone one of us has in their pocket, The Goal Compass. Every great person who achieves something wonderful sets their goal compass and moves in that direction with little deviation. This doesn’t just apply to photographers, imagine Christopher Columbus and the mountain he had to climb to discover the new world. He needed ships, he needed sailors, he had to break a history of convention that stated what he wanted to do was impossible. The planning took over a decade, but he stayed the course and made his spot in history. He could not be deterred and every movement he made was aimed towards his goal. We are not explorers seeking the New World, we are photographers, and fortunately our goals are easier than Columbus.

However the Mountain does stand before us and it can be daunting. By setting the goal compass on plateaus to traverse you will be amazed at the creative ground you will cover. Here is style deconstructed and that which reveals a simple formula  serving as a map to travel over the mountain in the most expedient way.

  1. Master the camera and lens you are utilizing. Use a specific technique to create the image and perform specific post process treatments.

  2. Find subject manner you want to explore deeper. This is idea made reality in the camera viewfinder.

  3. Create a body of work around the subject and place by using the same camera and techniques.

The Euclidean triangle that is the base to developing photographic style. At what point on the triangle are you?

Note: This is an exert from my upcoming book on Finding and Developing Photographic Style. Want to learn more? Come to Brommer’s Style and Composition in NYC Workshop in April.

suspectworkshopbanner

Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th

Message Man in Chelsea

Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC  is a four day intensive workshop to develop your style and advance your composition skills with classroom sessions, assignments, museum and gallery visits, critiques, and guided photo walks in some of NYC’s iconic neighborhoods led by David Brommer. Photographers who are looking to perfect their skills and spend every waking moment in the city that never sleeps will be taking advantage of high level instruction and techniques with an emphasis on creating a body of work that will feature their own voice. Being exposed to new visual concepts and photographs from a series of visits to selected Chelsea galleries and two iconic photo collections at ICP and MoMA, students will ultimately build a solid portfolio of images.

chelsea

Classroom sessions: In this part of the program, David Brommer will deliver his two signature lectures “Finding Photographic Style” and “Composition Beyond the Rule of Thirds”  to give you the right tools to create a series of compelling images during your time in NYC. The classroom will serve as a home base, providing an environment for post processing and critique sessions, as well as working as an arena to discuss ideas and evaluate progress. The classroom sessions will be held at the photo department of New York Film Academy , a brand new facility in Battery Park  with state of the art classrooms with views of the Statue of Liberty and the port of NYC.

Photo Walks: The photo walks will explore iconic neighborhoods and landmarks including The Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan, Central Park, The West Village, Times Square and Grand Central Station. A live model will be available for one selected location photo shoot that will also feature a mini lighting workshop.

Gallery Visits: The neighborhood of Chelsea, with its more than 300 galleries, has the highest concentration of visual art per square foot on the entire planet. This experience will be a unique opportunity to visit key institutions and enjoy short gallery talks.  The itinerary will include Steven Kasher Gallery, Robert Mann Gallery, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Clamp Art.

Final Party: The grand finale of the workshop will be the “Black & White” dinner, a party hosted by David Brommer and his wife Barbara. During the party the students will showcase their work and enjoy a “Black & White” menu of photography inspired gourmet dishes created by Barbara, (a chef and Bauhaus schooled artist).

Notes: This is an intensive workshop with lots of walking. It is not a basic class, it is intended for intermediate and advanced photographers. Class is strictly limited to 12 students. Be prepared to work hard, create dynamic photographs and grow as an artist.

Fee: The fee for the workshop is $699.00. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 12 students. The fee includes admission to ICP and MoMA and the final party.

Meals are not included, however we will be enjoying the vibrant NYC food scene.

Payments: A $200 dollar deposit is required to hold your reservation. The final balance is due March 31st. Students paying in full by March 1st receive a $50 discount for the workshop (for this option, please use the Early Bird Enrollment button to pay).

Chose your payment option from one of the three below:

 

Workshop Cancelled. Subscribe to this blog to find out when more will be offered.

 

The Workshop Reservation Deposit ($200.00) is NOT refundable. If you cancel before April 15th you will obtain the fee refund minus the deposit amount (i.e. Workshop cancellations are subject to a $200.00 fee).

If you wish to pay by check please email me directly for instructions and payment information.

Any students who wish to bring a Fujifilm X System camera will receive special love. However, any digital camera or iphone is recommended. While the Suspect does love film, it will be hard to add film to the critique sessions and receive instant feedback.

Any questions please feel free to email or ask in the comment field. Thank you and see you NYC soon.

libraryon6th

Keep Calm and Carry Cameras II

What the Garbage Truck Sees

This is a short and sweet post, it’s about something I have said in this recent post, “always carry a camera”. You just never know when the photography gods will throw you a good image to capture. On the street, or just coming out of your bathroom. Carry that camera.

So here’s the story, on Sunday mornings I head out to La Bergamote bakery to pick up some croissants to bring back for breakfast. This trip takes me down 9th ave, and sometimes, I head east to 8th ave if I’m in the mood for bagels and lox from Brooklyn Bagel Company. Mostly though, it’s all about the croissant. I always grab my camera, because La Bergamote is in the heart of Chelsea and the architecture and tree lined streets is just perfect in so many ways. It was early on this particular Sunday morning, and cloudless. On the Corner of 22nd and 9th Avenue a Garbage truck had pulled in the corner diagonally so that its front pointed across the street instead of down the street. While a normal site on the streets of NYC, as I crossed it I noticed the windows reflected the buildings across in an interesting composition. Standing almost in the middle of the street I took some time to compose the image, falling into that tantric composition photo seeing trance through the viewfinder that only ones who love photography can understand. Time stands still, traffic matters not and in a 250th of a second it’s done. Exposure made, for better or worse or most likely, for nothing really because only a small percentage of images actually has any guts to it- destined to fall deeply into a folder on the hard drive.

Later during breakfast I did a chimping session and thought, “you know what David, you got something here…” so I downloaded the image onto my iPad and started to do my new workflow with snapseed and was quite surprised at the final edited image. I posted it on my Facebook and got loads of Likes. I’m so happy I brought the Fujifilm Xpro1 with 18mm f2.0 on that croissant mission.

before and after

 

Fast forward a week later, and I visited the bathroom early this morning. Of course I had the requisite iPad with me, and I was sitting there, through the door I spied the rising sun pouring through the windows and shedding light on my wife Barbara’s cabinet. Click.

 Heads greeting the morning sun.

Photography is about so much, and sometimes I just blush with happiness, when all that matters is making the image. I friend of mine recently posted a shot of her under the darkcloth of a Deardorff on Facebook, as I was writing this post I had spotted it on my feed, We had a short exchange and Kendra gets it, she said, “love it”.

photodialog

Check out Kendra’s work, she shoots Tin Types and brings a wonderful aesthetic to her work. When I first met her she was shooting with a 4×5 Speed Graphic, now she’s rolling big time with a 8×10 Deardorff!  Look at those TinTypes, thats LOVE! www.kendraesadams.com

That’s all there is to this I guess. Carry a camera, keep calm, and love it.

 

~David

 

Keep Calm, Carry Cameras. No, Really.

Message Man in Chelsea

After I posted yesterday’s blog on Street Photography as a Genre, I went out for an afternoon walk from Chelsea to Union Sq and back. I got about 2 blocks when I realized as I chose my camera to pack with me for the walk, I forgot my wallet. With a grunt and curse I turned about to return home and then I spied this perfect intersection of light with this well dressed dude in a pose seemingly meant just for me. Thank you sir. As I crossed the street, I drew my Ricoh GR IV, held it up as I slowly walked by and … nailed it.  Best shot I have taken in about a month. Thrilled. No one but the Shutter god and I knew the discreet candid photo was ever taken.

The last post was about Street Photography as genre, so I had this in mind and was playing with the camera in a whimsical “streety” way. Luckily the camera focuses extremely fast and accurately and I can apply some funky contrast B&W styles to the photo. I walked away with a image I can rely on, more confidence that I can shoot street genre, and mostly the reiteration to ALWAYS CARRY A CAMERA.

So the shot is made with Ricoh GR IV Digital and I wrote a review of it here. It’s a fine street shooter.

Genre: Street Photography

Halloween revelers get cash at Citibank.

 

Everyday, Opportunistic, and Spontaneous

The most popular and widely practiced genre of photography is arguably Street Photography. Street photographers walk around with stealthy cameras ready to grab candid and un-posed images. It takes dedication to build up a body of work, and days and days of shooting can yield little in interesting images and then all of sudden, something with punctum pops into the frame.

 Puppets, Milan Italy. Fujifilm Xpro 1 18mm lens B&W film simulat

In the pantheon of photography, street photographers reign. Known as the father of street photography, Henri Cartier Bresson championed the concept of what he described as, “The Decisive Moment”. This can be summed up from Bresson’s own words, “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” Bresson’s concept has aged quite well even considering that HD Video and super fast capture rates has fallen in favor even with the still photographers.

Icons

Perhaps Street Photography is so widely practiced because it is so readily available. Simply walk out of  any door with your camera ready to go and the world becomes your subject. Practicing street photography can be an exuberant way of displaying photographic style but it’s own ease can be its pitfall too. Photographers run the risk of becoming bored waiting for that “Bresson Moment” to occur and let their guards down and miss the potentially great shot. Street Photography captures fractions of seconds of our society in action and can serve in a documentarian role as well as just making a great photograph. The best street photos are when multiple stories are being told and the entire frame becomes a stage for life unfolding. It is spontaneous, and patience with a camera on a street corner will be rewarded with just the right subject, secondary subjects, and actions occurring with the background you chose.

 Coney Island

Another interesting facet of street photography is that it ages well. While a street filled with current cars becomes mundane, the same street filled with 55 Buicks and 57 Chevy’s all of sudden has a nostalgic boost. The same can be said with fashions and evolving cities in the frame, these images get more interesting with time. This is a reward for those who practice the genre of street photography during thier lifetimes.

Kid on the street. Hi Contrast B&W Ricoh GRD IV

Kid on the street. Hi Contrast B&W Ricoh GRD IV

Skills: Quick Reaction Time

Technique: Zone Focus or Pre Focus

Masters: Robert Frank : Vivian Cherry : Peter Turnley : Harvey Stein : Vivian Maier : Bresson (link above). Yes there are many more, this is broad genre however I picked these to start with for historical reference and also in the case of Peter and Harvey, they are still very active and teach workshops.

Gear: Leica M system, Fujifilm Xpro system, (super high quality and small discrete size) DLSR with fast aperture prime wide lens.

I’ll be honest here, I am challenged by street photography and while I practice it, always armed with a camera when out and about, I find my best work is when I can set the shot up and influence the image.  I respect street shooters and for those just looking to get into the genre, I recommend you look at the following photographers

The above is part of a format for presenting the genre’s of photography in my upcoming book, “Finding and Developing Photographic Style”. The idea is the common genre name, followed by three words that sum up the genre, then a moderately in-depth description with photographs to illustrate. As always, I’ll take any feedback.

~David

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