The Problem Isn’t the Photo Contest, It’s Us

The Problem Isn’t the Photo Contest, It’s Us

Eye-rolls, shrugs, and barbs greeted the $120,000 Grand Prize winner of Dubai’s HIPA Photography Prize. Malaysian photographer Edwin Ong’s photo of a partially blind Vietnamese woman carrying her baby was derided for representing yet another “poverty porn” contest winner before it was suggested that the image was staged by photographer Ab Rashid.

Ong defended his claim that the image was not staged to the Malaysian daily The Star, saying, “In this trip to Vietnam, we (the photographers) went to the rice field and there was a mother (who had her children with her) that passed by. We never told her to stand up or sit down.”

The circumstances that led to the photo are largely irrelevant. HIPA has no restriction in their contest rules that would prohibit staging, nor does the contest adhere to any photojournalistic ethics despite a jury selection throughout the years that has a bias towards photojournalists.

Photo by Edwin Ong Wee Kee

Yet we feel duped, and not necessarily because the image may or may not have been directed. We feel duped because Ong took the image with a gaggle of other photographers of a young, impoverished mother in a way that feels creepily reminiscent of a mid-20th-century all-male camera club hiring a female model.

We feel outraged because “poverty porn” is a reliable trope for winning photo contests – even one with the theme of “Hope” where no hope is to be found. A glimpse at the previous winners of HIPA certainly supports this claim despite having a rotating jury of some of the world’s best photographers who are supplementing their meager photo-related income with judging.

Photo by Mohamed Alragheb.
Photo by Arash Yaghmaeian, the 2016-2017 HIPA Grand Prize winner.

We feel disgusted because the subject is a brown woman. Never mind that Ong is brown because brown and black people are fully capable of committing the sin of exploiting their own just like white people.

We feel repugnance at a contest culture that often rewards unethical behavior, and allows contest organizers to build their business on the scam of contest entry fees. Never mind that this particular contest offers a total prize package of $450,000. The $150,000 Grand Prize is too big for this photo, for this photographer. He ought to share it.

But it’s hypocritical to impugn contest culture while simultaneously consuming most of our photography diet through a game-ified app on a 4-inch screen that algorithmically encourages and rewards “likes.” We’re sometimes more concerned with vertically scrolling as fast as possible to catch up with our feed than actually view photography.

We are competitive creatures living in a world where contest promoters and apps prey upon our vanity and search for validation. The same people who decry contests use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to build their own followings while chasing retweets and likes of their own.

Contests are problematic. The celebration of suffering is amoral. Large monetary prizes cause some people to act unethically. But contest popularity is merely a symptom of the Information Age optimized for the id. Of course, we should strive as a community for ethical standards, but it’s inaccurate to lay blame solely on Ong for taking and submitting the picture when the entire ecosystem is suspect.

Hopefully some of the online discussion in the wake of the contest will cause photographers, juries and contest organizers to reconsider “poverty porn” in contest culture. And perhaps HIPA can consider some ethical guidelines for future incarnations. And if nothing else, maybe the increased awareness of the world’s richest photo contest will attract a whole new wave of photographers doing important, long-term work thereby rendering discussion of poverty tourism moot.

About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Source: PetaPixel

The Problem Isn’t the Photo Contest, It’s Us

This is How Photorealistic Video Game Engines Are Now

This is How Photorealistic Video Game Engines Are Now

The asset library Quixel has released this new 2.5-minute cinematic short film titled “Rebirth.” It’s an eye-opening look at how photorealistic real-time rendering in video game engines is now.

To prepare for the project, Quixel spent a month in cold and wet locations in Iceland, scanning all kinds of objects found in the natural environment using. The team returned with over 1,000 scans that captured the details of the landscape.

Examples of Quixel photogrammetry scans. Screenshots by TechSpot.

Using the scans — a part of Quixel’s Megascans library — a team of three artists at Quixel created the 1:45 cinematic film in real-time using the power of the Unreal Engine 4 game engine.

“The high fidelity of the physically-based scans delivers results that are remarkably photorealistic,” Unreal Engine writes.

Here are some still frames from the short film:

Part of the realism was due to the use of a physical camera rig that allowed the creators to “film” in virtual reality.

“With UE 4.21 at the heart of the real-time pipeline, Quixel’s artists were able to iterate on the go, eliminating the need for previsualization or post-production,” Unreal says. “The team also built a physical camera rig that was able to capture movements in-engine using virtual reality, adding an enhanced dimension of realism to the short. All post-processing and color grading was completed directly within Unreal.”

The result of all this work and technology is a real-time film that rivals the photorealism of offline renders.

(via Unreal Engine via DPReview)

Source: PetaPixel

This is How Photorealistic Video Game Engines Are Now

5 Quick Headshot Tips in 3 Minutes by Photographer Peter Hurley

5 Quick Headshot Tips in 3 Minutes by Photographer Peter Hurley

Want to up your portrait game? Here’s a video by B&H in which Naew York City-based portrait photographer Peter Hurley shares 5 headshot tips in about 3 minutes.

Here’s a rundown of the tips covered:

1. Keep it Simple

2. Keep a Consistent Portfolio

3. Get the Jawline Out

4. It’s All About the Squinch

5. Confidence and Approachability

Watch the video at the top for Hurley’s explanation of each of these tips and how they can result in better headshots for your business.

Source: PetaPixel

5 Quick Headshot Tips in 3 Minutes by Photographer Peter Hurley

Why Lens Focal Length Matters

Why Lens Focal Length Matters

Thinking about which lens to buy next? You might want to take a look at this 9-minute video first. In it, photographer Jamie Windsor argues that choosing the right focal length is more than a technical decision based on what type of photography you want to do — your choice affects the dynamic and meaning of your photos.

“Choosing the right focal length is much more than about creating a flattering portrait or being able to fit everything you want into your frame,” Windsor says. “Your choice of lens changes the dynamic of your image and the psychological meaning the audience will derive from it. In this video essay, I examine how different focal lengths can be used to communicate different messages to your audience.”

Windsor says that the advancement of TV sets and TV show quality has made many popular shows indistinguishable in quality from movie theater films, and as a result, most people are now exposed to the visual language of cinema on a daily basis.

“While film cinematography and photography are very different beasts in a lot of ways, there are also some aspects that unite them,” Windsor says. “And one of those is how we as an audience psychologically derive meaning from different focal lengths.”

The video then goes through a wide range of examples showing how cinematographers and photographers use different focal lengths in different ways to convey different types of feelings and meanings.

“When choosing a lens, think about how you want your audience to feel,” Windsor concludes. “Why are you shooting what you are? What are you saying with it? Use focal length to subtly communicate your message to the viewer, because changing focal length can completely change the whole meaning of your shot.”

Source: PetaPixel

Why Lens Focal Length Matters

Harvard Sued Over Profiting From Its Earliest Slave Photos from 1850

Harvard Sued Over Profiting From Its Earliest Slave Photos from 1850

Harvard University is being sued over daguerreotypes of slaves — believed to be the earliest photos of American slaves — commissioned by one of its professors back in 1850. A descendant of the slaves accuses Harvard of wrongfully seizing, possessing, and profiting from the photos.

USA TODAY reports that the Swiss-born biologist Louis Agassiz had commissioned the photos to be shot by photographer J.T. Zealy in a South Carolina studio to support a theory of human origins called polygenism, or the view that human races have different origins. A slave man and his daughter, Renty and Delia, were stripped of their clothing and photographed naked from a number of angles to argue that African-Americans were inferior to white people.

An 1850 photo of Renty at the center of the lawsuit.

Now a woman named Tamara Lanier who claims to be Renty’s great-great-great granddaughter is suing Harvard over those photos of her purported direct ancestor. Lanier says she has repeatedly demanded that Harvard stop licensing its photos of “Papa Renty” for profit, only to have her requests ignored.

She’s also demanding that the original Harvard-owned daguerreotypes be handed over to her family.

“For years, Papa Renty’s slave owners profited from his suffering,” Lanier tells USA TODAY. “It’s time for Harvard to stop doing the same thing to our family.”

After the photos of Renty, Delia, and 11 other slaves were made in 1850, they disappeared for 126 years until they were discovered in an attic at Harvard. One particular photo of Renty has since become an iconic photo representing American slavery, and it continues to be used on things such as conference programs and book covers.

Harvard allegedly charges a licensing fee for the photos to be reproduced.

“These images were taken under duress, and Harvard has no right to keep them, let alone profit from them,” attorney Michael Koskoff, who’s representing Lanier, tells USA TODAY. “They are the rightful property of the descendants of Papa Renty.”

The lawsuit states that Harvard has “avoided the fact that the daguerreotypes were part of a study, overseen by a Harvard professor, to demonstrate racial inferiority of blacks.”

Source: PetaPixel

Harvard Sued Over Profiting From Its Earliest Slave Photos from 1850

The Art of Seeing as a Photographer

The Art of Seeing as a Photographer

When I look back at my journey as a wildlife photographer especially as I scroll through my images on my editing screen a few things become apparent. Firstly, most of my pictures were either action or close up portrait, and secondly, the editing was awful.

Editing is an essential skill for a photographer, and you must be equally as good as editing as you are in capturing the image. I am still learning and improving my editing skills. Action images and close up portraits in wildlife photography — why do I have a problem with those images? Well, they needed little or no ability, action images with today’s technological advance focusing systems. It is just a matter of point and shoot. Close up portraits, requires a good lens a willing subject and then you fill your frame up and release the shutter.

Okay, maybe I am oversimplifying, but my point remains the same, little creative effort went into those images.

Wildlife photography, in my opinion, is one of the most challenging genres, why? We are reliant on all the elements that make a successful wildlife photograph. Timing, place, light, and subject matter are generally all unknowns for a wildlife photographer on safari.

That’s why we wildlife photographers on safari head straight for the waterhole especially in the dry season as that is the best place to capture wildlife action photography. But what do we do when all is quiet at the waterhole, and there is no action to photograph. How do we create a compelling photograph? The most important thing to remember is that we are crafting a picture.

We all know that a successful photograph needs a good composition. Some rules and guides can help you create an image. But it is your “vision” that will make it unique and compelling. That is what we all want from our photography no matter what genre — to stand out from the crowd to be different and for people to recognize our style.

Firstly I will talk about the guides and rules that are important in creating a composition. Then I will discuss how you can improve your “vision”, your unique way of seeing.

Ask any photographer about rules of composition and the Rule of Thirds will slip off their tongue. For some photographers it is all they will ever use.

There are numerous rules of compositions that can aid you to be more creative with your photographs. I have often heard, and I am sure you have too, that “there are no rules in photography,” or “learn the rules and forget them.” There may be some merit in these statements, I will leave that discussion to others, but for me and my photographic journey, increasing knowledge of my craft every day has helped me make better photographs. I want to discuss just a few rules, guides, and tips that I use most when out photographing.

Zebra Stallion Standing Guard

Negative space is one of my favorite rules of composition. I place the subject in the frame using either the golden ratio or rule of thirds; mostly I go with what feels right. Remember rules are only guides. For “negative space” to work in a composition, it is essential that there are no distracting elements within the scene.

This kind of image works best with a solitary subject with a clean background in an open space. I try and not include clouds as this will give the image a different feel and distract from the subject. Negative space creates a sense of calm and allows the image to breathe.

Shape, lines, form, and textures are essential elements of successful landscape black and white photograph. But we can make beautiful compositions in nature photography with these elements too.

Look for interesting patterns in clouds and include them with your wildlife subjects. Clouds give you shapes and textures which create a sense of depth, a three-dimensional feel.

An essential tip to creating a unique image is your viewpoint or angle of view. Always try and vary your perspective, go low, go high, if you are using a wide angle lens, tilt your camera and get exaggerated sky, adding impact to your photograph.

Lines create feelings within us; vertical lines give a sense of power; horizontal lines suggest a feeling of calm; diagonal lines a sense of movement; soft curved lines, which is probably the best known and used in photography, create gentle and soothing feelings.

The “background” of a photograph is not a “compositional rule”, but it is undoubtedly one of the most critical elements within a successful photograph.

A busy background is very distracting and will take the viewers eye away from the subject of the image and create a visual sense of unease.

Street photographers have favorite locations with beautiful backgrounds, and they wait till a subject walks pass and then press the shutter and create a photograph.

We can do the same with wildlife photography although it can be a lot more difficult to achieve.

In my last article, I talked about a recent safari. I had never been to this location before, and upon my arrival, I notice the distant mountains were magnificent, and immediately I set about finding a waterhole with the mountains as a backdrop and then it was a matter of waiting. Elephants arrived, within a few minutes, the elephants began their usual ritual of bonding. I press the shutter capturing an intimate moment between elephants with a beautiful backdrop to complete a compelling composition.

Another useful and effective backdrop is to use the “subject” as a background, for example, photographing a young animal against the side of its parent, zebras are the most common ones that come to mind.

When you find the backdrop for an image, be it beautiful mountains or something uniform, you can then go about creating a series of pictures with different animals or the same animal in various poses.

Rules of symmetry and rhythm are two essential guides that will help you become more creative in your photography. Symmetry is achieved when one side mirrors or balances with the other. Best-known use of symmetry in nature photography is the reflection.

In the image below with elephants on the horizon, I tried to create balance and symmetry with the elephants at either end. I included the clouds for shape, form, and texture this adds a sense of depth, the line created by the horizon gives a feeling of calm.

When photographing try and include as many compositional elements as you can to create an engaging photograph.

Using patterns in your photographs help create rhythm. Patterns appear everywhere in nature, try and photograph a pattern that has a repeated shape as in the image below of lines in the dunes, these repeated patterns will add rhythm that the viewer will easily follow. In this image, I used a low angle of view and tilted the wide angle lens to create diagonal lines and exaggerated the stormy sky which adds mood.

Framing your subject is a very nice way to lead the viewers to your subject, in wildlife especially with adults and young, the young will always try and shelter underneath the parents for protection, giving us opportunities to use the adults as frames as we focus on the young.

Depth of field is another useful aid to isolate your subject from a distracting background. I love to use DOF with the rule of rhythm, finding similar subjects as in the image below of the baby zebra, I focused wide open on the foals eye creating a pleasing blur of the stripes in the foreground, which form a pattern and sense of rhythm.

The Rule of Odds is not a well-known rule of composition and one that I struggle to accomplish in my wildlife photography. The theory behind the rule of odds is that the viewer’s eyes are drawn to photographs with odd numbers, and within the odd numbers the eye will be drawn to the subject in the center. It sounds easy enough, but in practice it’s not so, or at least for me.

I have only managed to capture one photograph that I am happy with, the lion and zebra image below, for balance I have cropped the image to square with the horizon in the middle. The three subjects, the two zebras and lion accomplish not just the rule of odds, but the rule of balance and symmetry too. The dust gives a sense of action and movement and creates a mood within the image.

Color theory is an essential part of a successful color image, as I tend to favor black and white photos over color images, this something that I want to learn about in more depth. What is color theory? You are using specific colors in a way that are harmonious. My favorite one I love to use for wildlife photography is using complementary colors — shades of cool blues and warm/orange tones, which are opposite on the color wheel.

I have briefly explained some of my favorite rules of composition which will help you in the “Art Of Seeing.” But the most critical part of creating or crafting a compelling photograph is your vision — that is what is going to separate your portfolio from somebody else. We can all learn to know and understand the rules of compositions. But how can you create that unique vision, the “x” factor, in your work? The only person that can do this is you!

Every time you look or scroll through your images, be your own harshest critic. I have heard photographers say they are unable to choose their best photo. If you are not able to recognize your best image, how are you going to know an excellent compositional photograph in the field?

Be selective in what you photograph. Do not shoot for the sake of shooting. A feeling should overcome you, an inner voice shouting at you. Then ask yourself what is it that draws to you this scene? How can you successfully capture this feeling? What kind of mood or emotion do you want to create in this photograph? Then shoot the subject from every angle possible, use different focal lengths, different shutter speeds, and remember to check your frame, what you leave out is just as important as what you leave in.

There is nothing as frustrating getting home, downloading your images, and wishing that you had shot the subject with a different lens, aperture, or angle. Cover all the bases when you come across a subject that connects with you. And remember to try and convey that connection, mood or feeling as you edit the image. Your images must connect on an emotional level with the viewer.

When I photograph it is a balance between my mind and heart; my brain looks after the technicals while my heart looks after the emotion within the photograph. Too much of one will leave an emotionless image or a poorly executed image. To sum up, I think the words from one of my favorite songs, “Reverence” by Faithless:

“You don’t need eyes to see… you need vision.”

About the author: Peter Delaney is an award-winning wildlife, architecture, and landscape photographer based in George, South Africa. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, fine art site, Facebook, Twitter, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Source: PetaPixel

The Art of Seeing as a Photographer

This Beer Was Developed to Process Kodak Super 8 Film

This Beer Was Developed to Process Kodak Super 8 Film

The popular craft brewery Dogfish Head is launching a new gose beer called SuperEIGHT. The brew shares more than a name with Kodak’s famous Super 8 film format: the beer was actually designed to process the film.

The 5.3% ABV beer is made with 8 special ingredients: prickly pear, mango, boysenberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, kiwi juices and a touch of quinoa, along with an ample addition of Hawaiian sea salt.

Back in 2018, Dogfish founder and CEO Sam Calagione joined the Kodak podcast The Kodakery to chat about analog processes in the digital age. And during the conversation, Calagione learned that the heightened levels of acidity and vitamin C in certain beers can actually allow them to serve as processing agents for film stocks.

Dogfish founder Sam Calagione.

It just so happened that Dogfish was already working on a new beer that would feature extra acidity and vitamin C, so Calagione had them specifically design it to process Kodak Super 8 film well. The result was SuperEIGHT, and early batches of the beer were sent to Kodak to confirm that it could successfully develop film.

Here’s the recipe for using SuperEIGHT beer as a developer with Kodak Tri-X film:

Want to see how well the beer does as a film developer? Dogfish actually teamed up with Kodak to create a short film shot on Super 8 film and developed with SuperEIGHT beer:

“From the can to the stop bath, there’s a whole lot of science and alternative processing that takes place to bring the imagery to life,” Dogfish says. “And it’s so totally worth it.”

Doghead SuperEIGHT will be available across the United States in 6-packs of 12-ounce cans in late March or early April. The “vibrant red” beer “has a slightly tart taste and pleasantly refreshing finish, with delicious flavors of berries and watermelon.”

Source: PetaPixel

This Beer Was Developed to Process Kodak Super 8 Film

10 Tips to Speed Up Your Photoshop

10 Tips to Speed Up Your Photoshop

Is your Photoshop running a bit sluggish at times? There might be a way to speed things up. Here’s a helpful 10.5-minute video by photoshopCAFE that goes over 10 tips that will help you squeeze the fastest possible performance from the program.

Here’s a rundown of the 10 tips covered in the video (along with the timestamps where they’re found):

  1. 00:50: Lose the welcome screen
  2. 01:30: Shrink the New Document window
  3. 02:00: Increase Recent Documents to 100
  4. 02:45: Use 80% of your RAM
  5. 03:20: Fix display issues
  6. 03:48: Legacy compositing
  7. 04:15: Scratch disk
  8. 05:38: Don’t copy and paste
  9. 06:40: Free up resources
  10. 07:42: The fix all (resetting preferences)

Here’s an article we published a few years ago with a closer look at a few of the tips covered in this video.

Source: PetaPixel

10 Tips to Speed Up Your Photoshop

Why Size Matters: Lens Compression at 400mm in Landscape Photography

Why Size Matters: Lens Compression at 400mm in Landscape Photography

Most the time when I am out doing landscape photography, I have a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS and Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS with me. On road trips, I try to bring my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II — it’s a fantastic lens with great image stabilization and impressive image quality. Unfortunately, it is a bit too big and heavy for me to bring out more often!

On a recent trip through the Canadian Rockies, I had this special lens with me. I knew of this tree in Banff National Park and knew I wanted to photograph it. While originally a typical portrait (vertical orientation) photograph, I later switched into landscape orientation and took a vertical panorama (8 individual images), yielding me a larger perspective and much higher resolution.

Now, this tree could have been photographed with my 16-35, or even my 70-200 – but to be able to shoot it at 400mm with my 100-400 lens yields far different and unique results. Thankfully, this specific area afforded me the ability to step back further from the tree, but by zooming in I was emphasizing the lens compression you get when you shoot at longer focal lengths.

What Is Lens Compression?

Lens compression (although it has more to do with a given focal length and nothing to do with the lens itself) works because we’re able to get further away from our subject but still zoom in as if we were much closer. As a result, it creates the appearance that the background has been pulled in closer, distorting it to be larger than it is. This in turns has a bit of a flattening effect on the scene, making subjects throughout the depth of the scene appear far closer to each other than in actuality. The inverse happens with wide angle lenses, as we will stand closer to our subject it appears larger proportionally to the background.


In the example above, we can see at both 20mm and 35mm, we can clearly see the space around the tree — we can see lots of foreground and background trees, and the trees along the side of the road also appear further away from our tree in the middle. At 20mm, we cannot get close enough (without tilting the camera too far upwards and distorting the photograph in a different way), and as a result, it looks small in the scene.

As we get out to 70mm and beyond, we start to see the lens compression phenomenon kick in. As we step back and increase our focal length, the scene gets flatter and flatter where once we reach 400mm we’ve included far more trees along the road, the trees behind our main subject appear to sit almost right behind it, and we lose the ability to sense that in fact there is about 100m (300 feet) of tree-lined road in front of the main tree (or more!).

Lens compression is often talked about in portrait photography for the same principles. Longer focal lengths give us the ability to increase our distance from our subject, which gives us the effect of creating a more flat, less distorted face.

Photographing the Tree

I shot this video when I was photographing the tree, so you can see first-hand the area and get a better idea of the area I was photographing in as well as just how far away I was from my subject when shooting at 400mm.

The stitched photo that resulted.

About the author: Kaitlyn McLachlan is a landscape photographer based in Vancouver, Canada. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of McLachlan’s work on her website, 500px, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Source: PetaPixel

Why Size Matters: Lens Compression at 400mm in Landscape Photography

Photos Inside the Art Institute of Seattle After it Abruptly Closed

Photos Inside the Art Institute of Seattle After it Abruptly Closed

I photographed the Art Institute of Seattle 3 days after it was abruptly shut down. I taught photography at AiS since October 2007. I think it is important for these images to get out as this is what it looks like when a school closes.

On Friday, March 8, 2019, the Art Institute of Seattle abruptly closed with just two weeks left in the winter quarter, leaving students, faculty, and staff scrambling in a rough situation.

On Monday, March 11th, 2019, I wandered the halls of AiS after having taught there for over twelve years.

This is what was left.

About the author: Melinda Hurst Frye is a Seattle-based exhibiting artist, working in themes of implied environments and shared experiences within the still life aesthetic. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Her current work illustrates the mystery and activity of Northwest subterranean and residential Seattle ecosystems, including her front yard. Hurst Frye has been featured on Humble Arts Foundation, Lenscratch, WIRED Photo, and in various solo and group exhibitions. You can find more of her work on her website and Instagram. This series was also published here.

Source: PetaPixel

Photos Inside the Art Institute of Seattle After it Abruptly Closed