Monday, 7 April 2008

Why I Love to Hate Flickr

Like just about every other photographer who publishes their photos on the internet I have a Flickr account. In fact, posting my photos to, and exploring Flickr was what really got me back into photography. I loved putting my photos up for friends, family, or anyone to view and hopefully comment upon. I also loved the inspiration I got from exploring other people's photos. Many a better photographer than I uses Flickr as a showcase for their photos.

After a while, I grew less enthusiastic about Flickr. One of my  main problems is with the comments which people leave on photos. Quite often, all they say is "Great shot" or "You have been nominated to post this photo on [group xyz]". These kind of comments annoy me. Why did you like the photo or feel it should be nominated for a group? Which part was it? How can it be improved? If a photo moves you, say so! There is not one photographer I have met who would not appreciate praise of criticism of his/her work.
The other thing I dislike about Flickr is their map; although this is only since they changed it (about a year ago now, I think). I feel that it is not user friendly. It's default is a semi-working pseudo-tag-cloud. It is only once one plays around with it a bit (quite a bit!) that it becomes clear how to change the map to something useable (tip: click on the three pink dots in the top right). The map may have got me into geotagging my photos, but why change a main feature of your site to something less useful?

Finally, Flickr has come under attack recently for being overzealous with its censorship. Because the company is owned by the big monster that is Yahoo!, it must toe the corporate line. However, my personal feelings on this are that it is not so much a problem with people putting content on, it is that Flickr does not have decent enough filters. Why not have a level of censorship on the searches akin to SafeSearch where the user must adjust their search settings to be less stringent? It is not a perfect solution, but it would be a lot better than having "Flickr are censorship bastards" pictures everywhere.

10 Reasons to Like Flickr:

1. Put your photos somewhere for your friends to see them.
2. View other photographer's work and comment on it.
3. Have people comment on your photos.
4. Join Flickr meetups/scavenger hunts to meet other photographers in your area.
5. Browse by tags for similar photos or inspiration.
6. Surf a world map for photos taken in a particular area.
7. Find your digital camera model and see pictures that other cameras have taken with theirs.
8. Ability to specify permissions and access on a per picture basis (compared with Picasa web album).
9. Organise your photos quickly and easily.
10. Whatever your style of photography, there has been one taken for you to look at.

10 Reasons to loath Flickr:

1. Users who comment with "Nice shot".
2. Users who comment with "I have chosen your photo for group X" and don't tell you why.
3. A world map user interface which is difficult to understand and therefore off-putting to the less technical user.
4. If you don't have someone jumping in your photo, you probably won't get to be on the front explore page.
5. A very small limit of 200 photos and 3 albums (compared with Picasa web album).
6. "Hot Tags" always containing the same thing (pic-a-day).
7. Too many pictures being stolen by people who do not know international or local copyright laws.
8. A blog whose only real purpose seems to be to advertise Flickr's latest affiliation/marketing campaign.
9. Tag clusters; why can't I just drill down through tags?
10. Groups cannot be browsed for, just guessed in the search box.

Three Badly Timed Photos

I spent the weekend up in Liverpool. There are some quite picturesque parts of the city. One of the nicest areas of the city is Hope Street. It is on the outskirts of the city and has a cathedral at each end (one of which is the fifth largest in the world). Other features of the road are The Everyman Theatre, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Luggage sculpture, The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, The Everyman Bistro, and various other cafés and restaurants.
Every year there is the Hope Street Festival which is a food and drink lovers paradise, as well as including many varied performances from artists, actors, and musicians. I recommend going there if you find yourself in Liverpool.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

With everything that Hope Street has to offer, I thought I would take some photos with my new camera, mainly to blog about the street, but also as a possibility of placing them on Picture Nation (my stock website of choice). When I downloaded them off the camera, I was not impressed at all. They are very dark, and the shadows make the photos look very flat. one can also see that I didn't actually take a second look at all before taking the pictures.

Looking North Up Hope Street

So, back to the drawing board with this set of photos. If you are taking street scenes, or pictures of a public place, take a second look before pressing the shutter release. If I took a second look before shooting the cathedral, I may have seen the seagull flying past, and probably would have waited for the person walking up the steps to move away. The other two have similar problems (the person by the theatre, and the car). I also would have realised there was no longer any light in the street and not taken the photos. Still, if I got it right every time, there would be no fun in photography for me.

Looking South Down Hope Street

Friday, 4 April 2008

Post Processing Fun

Part of my enjoyment of photography is the thrill of the hunt. I like trying to find a good shot, and then playing composition/exposure/aperture roulette to get the film to see what I see. I have taken many photos which I thought would look good, only to see I could have used a different aperture to reign in the depth of field.

Nowadays, in the digital age, this isn't as big a problem as it was during the 35mm days. One of my pictures of the last entry was a little red flower. When I brought it up on my monitor, I felt that the picture could have benefited from a shorter depth of field. Just one stop would focus the eye in on the flower, and hide a not so exciting background. So I went about trying to do this manually.

I use GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) as my photo processor mainly for the fact I cannot afford Photoshop. The advantage of GIMP is that it is free and contains many of the features of Photoshop.

So, a quick bit of searching lead me to GIMP Guru's tutorial. I followed the instructions and came up with this:

So, from this:

We get this:

I think it works quite well. Click on the pictures to see the larger versions.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Macro Fun

Having bought my snazzy Canon Powershot, I haven't done much photography with it. However, a couple of days ago it was just light enough when I arrived home to take some photos.

One photographic technique I enjoy is macro. Nearly everything looks dramatic when taken so close that one can see all of the fine details. My new camera has a macro function which works quite well. I was very surprised by the quality of the shots, particularly when they were handheld. I think the built-in image stabiliser helped me out a bit. My composition leaves a bit to be desired, but I am rather happy with the results. Particularly the red flower.

White Flower Macro

Blue Flower Macro

Curly Red Flower Macro

By the way, if you know what these flowers are called, please leave a comment. I would love to give them a proper name rather than "Blue Flower...", etc.