Category: How-to & tips (page 1 of 4)

Guides, how-to, tips and tricks.

Photographic sharpness: an obsession

I somehow came across an article by Connor McClure where he talked about how far too many people blindly use VSCO filters to process their photographs and call it a day. What he said about VSCO is true (and is something I strongly believe in myself) — they are a convenience, and not much more than trends; and trends pass on. McClure says it best: “They are trendsetters, and I don’t believe in latching too tightly on to trends.”

In addition to filters in general (not to target VSCO, whose filters I use rarely, but do use nonetheless) there is another misdirection I feel we ought to address in today’s photography scene: mindless obsession over sharpness.

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Mountain roads: photo book in print, available on Amazon

Earlier this month I wrote about my new photo book, a simple 7″x7″ paperback featuring a collection of 25 carefully handpicked black and white photographs, revolving around the theme of mountains.

I do not quite remember where I read this, but someone advocated printing out your photographs — at least select ones — even in the digital era, because printed photographs have their own charm and heightened value (even if the latter is only in our minds).

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The Mountain Roads project

Having travelled a bit earlier this month, I have been spending the past couple of weeks wading through a few hundred photographs, picking, flagging, editing and storing away safely. In the process, an interesting idea struck me.

When I first began photography I had a deep love for black and white pictures. (One of my first serious photographs was black and white.) I still do, but having understood the complexity and weight of colours, I make many more colour photographs nowadays.

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Should you square-crop Instagram photos?

I’ve always believed that all photographs are unique. (In fact, one of my short films addressed this ideology.) And that means you cannot draw a common boundary that applies to all photographs, which is why, for the last tens of photographs on my Instagram, I’ve been posting full dimensions instead of square cropping my pictures.

I have always been strict that photographs must be seen the way the photographer intended, and when was the last time you intended a hundred of your photographs straight to all be seen as squares?

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Recently I decided it was time (after three years) to backup my mobile phone photographs. I only started taking mobile photography seriously after getting my Note 3 and that enthusiasm swelled with my iPhone 6 Plus. In all I had about 1,300 photographs made since I got my iPhone — just the photographs I wanted to save, the total number of photographs is greater. And I looked around for an ideal backup and storage solution with which I could maintain my photographs.

The first option a lot of people suggested to me was Loom, but that is not available where I live. (Loom happens to be US-only.) And then there was Everpix — was — which was free and shut down as fast as it became popular. In all honesty, Everpix was an excellent solution, but faced the biggest problem with cloud storage solutions: they shut down, mostly because they run out of money trying to give storage free. Lesson: never opt for free cloud storage.

Then I tried Picturelife about three months ago and still love it for a lot of reasons. Some readers asked me to talk about my experience with the product and how I went about moving my photographs to the cloud, so this is it.

Update: After this article was published and discussed around the web, Picturelife got in touch with me and offered a generous 20GB of additional free storage for life. Thank you. And here’s to Picturelife for being one of the top cloud storage solutions for all of us.

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Switching to iPhone and iOS

When iPhone 6 Plus came out last year, I bought it without a second thought. I had an iPad, so I had experienced the new iOS 8, and when the phablet-sized device came out, my last complaint against  Apple went out the window (tiny screen sizes). iPhones are extremely capable, user-friendly devices and this means a lot coming from someone who once swore by Android until Google’s ugly material UI took over.

However, there were some things I wish I had known when I first switched to iPhone that I thought would be helpful to other new users. Not all of these may take you by surprise — some might — but all of them are definitely helpful and will improve your already stellar user experience with your shiny new phone.

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Installing gnuplot on Mac

Hardly anyone who has gone through a college mathematics or physics course is unacquainted with gnuplot. However, it turns out that installing gnuplot (or Octave, for that matter — but let us leave that for another day) on a Mac is a pain in the neck; in a time when installing games take a few clicks at best, it simply is not straightforward to install gnuplot.

After scratching my head over it for two days straight, I finally installed gcc, gnuplot, Octave and LaTeX on my new Mac (OS X 10.10.3, Yosemite) and decided to note some points/instructions down here for anyone else looking for a simple solution from start to finish contained in one place.

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Removing haze with Lightroom

Haze is a common problem those of us who make landscape photographs often face: a blurry, foggy… hazy, blanket covering vast tracts of land, intensifying as you move towards the horizon. Photograph a mountain and you will almost always notice haze blocking it.

Bumping up the contrast alone almost certainly does little to better such a photograph, and as it happens — unfortunately — there is no straightforward manner of removing haze in a photograph. For this demonstration, I will be using Lightroom, my go-to digital darkroom software, but the process should be similar in any alternative with equal capabilities (Photoshop, Aperture, Elements etc.)

To make things interesting, let us work with an example photograph — one I made a long time back, with our ever-present enemy, haze.

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Photography manifesto

Around this time last year I had presented to you my 50-point blogging manifesto. It signaled a change in my approach to blogging and almost a year later now, I am convinced it helped me and I am happy I followed it.

However, I have increasingly come to feel that my photography needs such a set of beliefs in black-and-white — hence this piece. But this is nowhere near as long as my blogging manifesto, but whether you are a photographer yourself or not — so long as art appeals to you — you might find this an interesting read.

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Blookist — not just another blogging platform

Visit Blookist and the most inspiring part of their website is in an obscure place — the address bar. “You don’t need an excuse to be creative”, it reads. Still in beta, Blookist is a new kind of publishing platform. That was how its co-founder and CEO, Adrian Zuzic, described it to me when he got in touch recently, asking if I would be interested in reviewing their startup.

Blookist is the content-appreciative publishing platform we had all been waiting for.

At first, I was confessedly disinterested: was this just another Obtvse, another Svbtle, or another Ghost? At a time when blogging platforms seem to be cropping up at every nook and cranny, why did I have to pay any attention to Blookist? Was this another ambitious platform started with enthusiasm that would lose direction halfway through?

As I looked around, however, it was hard for me not to realise this was not a blogging platform; it was something more, something unique, and, most importantly, something promising. I signed up for free immediately and over the next couple of days began to explore this further. It had caught my attention. Read more →

7 OS X Terminal commands you should know

Having been a Windows and Ubuntu user, joining the Mac tribe was extremely refreshing for me. And one of the things I noticed was that somehow, my Mac seemed to be made for me out of the box — leaving me with only a couple of minor tweaks to make.

That is not to say Macs are perfect; but they are a lot more understanding of humans than Windows. That means a majority of Mac users never explore the Terminal that comes with their computers: a lovely UNIX footprint available on the Mac.

But using the terminal, while not strictly necessary, is fun to do once-in-a-while. So whether you hope to get started or just see what the fuss is all about (and if you have a Mac) then these are seven OS X Terminal commands you should know.

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Using ICC profiles on Windows and Mac

Colours are a wonderful thing of nature, but only so far as our own eyes are concerned. When it comes to electronic devices, colours are only a range of binary digits, so a scale of some sort is required for, say, a computer, to interpret these colours.

In effect, what an International Colour Consortium (ICC) profile does is help your computer understand what colour you mean when you pass a certain electronic pulse signal.

Incompatible ICC profiles this can have a terrible effect on the work of visual artists — photographers, videographers, designers and the like — to such an effect that they may start looking like different photos or videos altogether on different machines and media. Here is how you can correct that.

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How I threw SEO out the window

Like a bane, search engine optimisation, (SEO) has long driven bloggers looking for visitors towards a meta-tag-heavy, Flesch points-restrictive style of writing. That needs to change.

When I started blogging seven years ago, I had to adopt the same practice and, while there is no doubt it worked, I always felt it hindered my style of writing. There is some sense in such optimisation, but the actual method of weighing writing is far too inhuman.

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Do not use big words, but the right ones

An impressive vocabulary is like a charming cup of tea. An exhibitionist vocabulary, on the other hand, is about as discombobulating as it is feckless. And it often works against itself, failing to make a point.

Big words

I have often noticed a trend in starting writers and — worse still — in those who have a newfound admiration for reading fat books they really could not care less about if it were not for that one peer they hope to impress.

People got out of their way to use big words: words not often used in daily life, with usually an extremely-specific meaning, and which preferably have complex pronunciations and/or spellings.

I attribute this to a sense of pride for, firstly, having come across that word; and, secondly, for assuming a lot of others do not know it. To many, however, it is usually a case of using a perfectly common word which they think is special simply because they had never heard of it before.

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How to use built-in NTFS on Mac

One of several things I learned only after buying a mac was that my hard disk drive, which I use for my photographs, and which I had used all this while either on a Windows PC or on my Ubuntu system, cannot be used effectively on a Mac.

At first this was shocking to me, but it soon became overly obvious: Windows NT File System — NTFS — of course it was a proprietary Windows mechanism in question and Mac would not read it.

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