Saturday, 31 January 2015

Parthenon. Nashville?

I am in Nashville this week. Not for the country music, but for Imaging USA, a photography conference and expo put on by the PPA (Professional Photographers of America). The place is crawling with photographers, and I am sure there will be hundreds, or perhaps thousands of photos going up on the web of Nashville this week. 

Of course, I had to add a few of my own.

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece is a little older and honestly doesn't look so great these days, so where better to build a replica than the country music capital of the world?

In reality, of course, it is an art gallery. To enter, you tunnel your way through a lower door in front of the main structure.

No two columns, they say, are exactly the same. And there are no perfectly straight lines in the building.

I don't suppose that the greeks would have boarded down the marble walkways, but this is Nashville.

The building is majestic and it truly takes you back to ponder how magnificent it must have been to behold in the fourth century BC.

It was unfortunate that there was landscaping construction going on all around the building. It limited some of the photo opportunities, but if you get a chance to come by during the summer, this is truly a sight to see.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Finding the Best Profile Photo.

Unlike just 20 years ago, when we met people in person before ever seeing their face, Your profile photo posted on social media is probably the first impression people will have of you. We all know how important those first impressions are, so making sure you have a great profile picture on your social media can make the difference between getting that new job or date and just missing it. 

Not sure which photo really is your best? Recently I discovered a website service that helps you find out. It's like a mini market research for your image. It's an image rating service called PhotoFeeler (

Creating an account is free and to use the service all you have to do is rate 10 other people's photos. Once you have done that, you can upload a photo and have it rated by 10 random strangers. 

The feedback you receive from people who do not know you will give you a clearer understanding of how other people perceive your photo and you might just be surprised by which one is really considered the best.

If you rate more peoples' images, you can upload more photos so you can compare the ratings and discover which is the best to use on your profile, or you can have more people rate the same image providing more accurate feedback. The more people rating your photo, the better the results and the easier it is to make a choice as to which photo you should use.

Of course, you might want to wear your "thick skin" when you look at the ratings, or read the comments. People can be critical. (one person commented on the photo above that they thought I was holding a rolled towel - well, I guess they didn't see the camera. Laugh and move on). But then that's the purpose of the exercise - not to feel good about the images, but to help you find the one people actually like!

If you haven't taken your profile photo yet, then here are some tips for taking the best profile photos:

Find a good background
A plain or simple background is best - it is less distracting and keeps the viewer's attention on the subject - you! Use a blank wall painted with an attractive colour. If you have to use a location with elements in the background, try to adjust your camera so the background is blurred. Objects such as Christmas trees in the background can date a photo and certainly no-one wants to see your dirty laundry behind you, so choose where you take the photo carefully.

Use good lighting
Choose lighting that will make you look attractive. Perhaps you thought it would be nice to have a silhouette, which lighting from behind will do, but it will not let people know what you really look like. Getting too close to the camera and using direct flash will tend to blow out your face making it hard to distinguish details. Try standing close to a north facing window where natural light will generally light the window side of your face and bounced light from the room will light the other with less intensity. 

Dress the part
Consider the job or date you are looking to attract with your photo. If you are a lawyer, it is probably best not to take the photo in your yoga outfit. If you are a personal trainer on the other hand, it is probably best not to wear a three piece suit. Select clothing in subdued colours and without distracting patterns. Keep the focus on your face, not how you dress.

Find a good expression
This can be the hardest of all of them because we are not used to creating an expression at will; it tends to happen naturally. So try to imagine yourself in the situation you want others to see you in and use that look - practice in a mirror. Look into the camera lens because in your photo you will be looking at the person looking at you. You want to make eye contact with them - show them you are interested in them.

Pose with purpose
Just as your expression portrays an emotion, so does your pose. Generally you don't want to have your body facing the camera straight on, unless you are posing with a numbered sign in front of you and the person taking the photo is wearing a police uniform. Turn your body slightly and look back at the camera. Looking away from the camera might be "artsy" and might fit you purpose, but it tends to make you look distracted and not interested in the person viewing the image. That will make them, in turn, less interested in you.

If you can, hire a professional
All of these tips are useful when taking your own photo, however, we never really see ourselves the way others do. We always filter our own image through our own experience. A professional photographer will look at you through different eyes and make adjustments to your pose, your expression, the background and the lighting that will help you bring out the characteristics you want others to see. Talk with them about what you want to use the photo for and what you want it to portray and together you can make an image that will "sell" you.

Whether you find a professional or take the photo yourself, do not just grab the first photo you find of yourself and post it on social media. Take some time to find the best one and stand out in the sea of faces. 

If you are in the Kitchener/Waterloo area and need a new profile photo, be sure to look me up: I would be happy to help you create your best profile photo!

Monday, 19 January 2015

They used my photo for what???

If you post photos to the internet, you must know that sooner or later they will be downloaded and used for just about anything.

Without getting into the whole issue of copyright infringement, or how it's important to give credit to the photographer, or compensate them for their work, I thought I'd share some funny mash ups I found of one of my pictures.

Back when I was getting starting in photography, I submitted a lot of images to stock sites. One of those was SXC (now known as "Free Images". It was a "free" stock photo site. Images posted to the site were critiqued and accepted or rejected on a number of criteria. At the time, it improved my photography as it helped me identify issues and work harder.

One of the images posted was of my daughter taking mail from a mailbox on a snowy road. It certainly wasn't one of my finest works of art, but like I said, I was learning. It was accepted though, and joined the collection. You can find the original image on the "Free Images" site here: You will note that it clearly states that I am supposed to be credited if you use the image.

Well, anyway, somehow the image got picked up by a site running by the name of "Freaking News" and was used for a contest where people were encouraged to photoshop it. Ironically, in spite of the gold coat and pink boots, the editor referred to the child in the photo as a little boy. They obviously didn't read the description on the image either, as it had said it was a girl too. A lot of people spent a good bit of time manipulating that photo with some funny, and some scary results.

So, here, for your enjoyment, are some of the photos as they presented them... I suppose I should feel guilty about not crediting the artists, but I don't see my name anywhere on their works which are all derivatives of my own... but then again, two wrongs don't make a right, so if you want to see where I found them at least, check here)

The moral of the story though - if you post it, don't be surprised if you see it turn up somewhere unexpected. You never know what might happen to it! And when you can, please credit the photographer or reference the source of your image at least.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Create unique family portraits.

Have you seen portraits of nineteenth century wealthy aristocrats hanging in mansions? Some of them are very strictly posed - probably so the person in the painting can stand long enough to be painted. On other canvases, they are depicted with their dogs, or reading, or enjoying some other interest that captured their imagination. The former are important historical records of the people. The latter are as well, but they bring so much more character into the images. They express who the individuals are as people. They tell their story.

Why not do the same with your family photos? 

Family photos are a way to look back on your family the way you were. They are an important way to capture who you were and who you have become as the years tick by. Having a photo of your family is a good start, but why not take it a step further and include your family's interests? 

The photos in this blog were created as a cooperative effort between the father and son and the photographer. The father knew what he and his son enjoyed - their love of cars. Because of their shared interest, they had the connections to find a great car for the photos - actually the grandfather's car. They also knew of a great location to take the photos.

The photographer's experience with lighting, composition and posing were used to create some truly memorable images that father and son will treasure for the rest of their lives.

Taking time to plan your family photo session will make it more interesting. Your photos will be more memorable and more enjoyable to create. And they will express who you are as a family.
Want to create a truly unique family portrait? Take some time with your photographer to think about what makes your family unique and plan to make your session special. Consider what your family enjoys - cycling, cooking, reading, exploring, hiking - explore the web to look for ideas and concepts that express your interests. Check Pinterest for similar images and expand on them to make them your own.

The images you create together will not only make some great keepsakes; you will be proud to hang them on your wall and show them off.

(c) 2015 by Gary Scott, all rights reserved.