Getting over the hump

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There comes a point in the growth of every photographer where they reach a ‘hump’ which appears to be insurmountable in any obvious way: you just don’t think you can get any better, no matter what you do. This may be at a very low level, or a very high one; depending on your natural visual aptitude. But it happens to everybody – it’s happened to me several times in the past. Today I’d like to talk about things you can do to move past it and up your game. After all, everybody wants to make better images, right?

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Photoessay: The Verticality Project

Verticality I
I: Kuala Lumpur

‘Project’-type photography – images shot to a theme as an exercise or assignment or with a view to an eventual exhibition – is generally a good way to motivate you to shoot if you’re stuck for inspiration. It narrows down the entire universe of possible subjects to just a few, or one. Or a single style. That restriction prevents the mental anguish of overload: either too many things to shoot, or nothing that really stands out in a visual barrage. If you’ve extensively shot the place you live in, it’s probably the former; the result is that you don’t land up photographing unless you take a trip or there’s an event – i.e. something out of the ordinary. The latter is what happens during that trip: perhaps there’s no inspiration, or there are just too many possible subjects, which result in a photographer losing focus and making a weak portfolio. Focus of effort is therefore generally a good idea. Believe it or not, this is actually the first intensely focused project of its sort I’ve attempted.

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Questioning the ‘art’ market

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Too commercial, with no artistry required, apparently.

Attempting to make the transition – perhaps augmentation is a more accurate description – from commercial photographer to fine art photographer as a profession in the last six months has not been easy. I suspect there are quite a few reasons for this: firstly, [defining a product] has become a significantly larger challenge since you are not creating to-spec for a client, but creating something you imagine from scratch. That something has to be visually distinctive enough to stand out, aesthetically pleasing enough to elicit desire, and exclusive enough to appeal to the typical art buyer.

And here the conflict begins.

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Photoessay: People of Cuba, part I

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One suitcase, many possible professions

Today’s photoessay is the first part of my report from the streets of Cuba. I tried to go in with as few preconceptions as possible, to just observe and shoot; there’s a little bit of movement away from the anonymity I’d been pursuing in my previous images. Perhaps it’s because the city itself is not anonymous or uniform or soulless or a cookie-cutter copy of every other first world city; the individuals mattered again – even when they were in groups.

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New comment and email policy

Thanks to an unusually large number of rude, profane and personally insulting communications in recent weeks – following reviews, especially – I have decided to implement a new policy regarding comments and emails. I have no problem with friendly and objective disagreements – they spur discussion and knowledge sharing, and this is what the site is about; however, abusiveness and insult will not be tolerated.

Site comments, Facebook, twitter and other public fora:

  • Please use a consistent username when commenting. All current readers with an approved comment should have no problems posting without moderation.
  • Posts from new commenters will be held for moderation.
  • Posts with a lot of links from any user will be held automatically for moderation; this is a WordPress thing to prevent spam (or in case somebody’s account has been hijacked).
  • Abusive, rude or trolling comments towards me or anybody else will be treated as follows: the first one will be left there because it will be obvious to the civilised rest of the community that you are a troll to be ignored, and clearly have social and mental deficiencies. Subsequent comments will be deleted and your username and IP blacklisted. I will no longer waste time replying you or engaging you in discussion.

Email and other private messaging:

  • I will still do my best to reply all emails so long as they’re legitimate.
  • Trolling, spam or rude emails will be ignored and deleted.
  • Repeated ‘what should I buy’ emails will be ignored.

To put it bluntly, I do this for free. I no longer have the time, patience or desire to deal with idiots. Thank you. MT

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A few places left for Making Outstanding Images Chicago (September 2014), Masterclass San Francisco (September 2014). Masterclass Venice (November 2014) now open for booking – click here to book or for more info

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

On Assignment: new car launch, part II


30s cut – for air

Continued from part I.

Right after the last file was returned from the retoucher, checked and sent off, I packed myself up to go on the tech reccie for the next part of the job: the TV commercial. Unusually, I wouldn’t be behind the camera this time: instead, I’d be occupying the folding canvas director’s chair. (I was surprised they existed, too). Read on to see life behind the lens from another angle…

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On Assignment: new car launch, part I

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An enormous amount of visual material needs to be generated before any new car launch; both stills and motion. The first part of this article will look at something I am very familiar with – normal studio photography.

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The London workshop report – and a couple of places left for SF and Chicago…

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Following the positive reception to the Havana Masterclass report’s slight change of format – now showing student images instead of lots of photographs of people shooting (though that album is here on flickr) – I’ve decided this should be the format from now on; also to give my students due credit for the hard work put in and the excellent images made*.

*Though I don’t want to embarrass anybody in particular by naming names; I’m just posting images and letting the anonymous claim responsibility if they wish :)

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The Nikon D810 review: a worthy D800E upgrade?

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This article will not be a review in the conventional sense. I’ve covered the original D800 here, a mid-term report here, and a long term report of the D800E here; after more than 70,000 frames with one D800 and two D800Es, I think I can say I know these cameras pretty well. Instead, this report will focus on the important differences, and the reasons why I eventually caved and upgraded one of the cameras – and not just because I had that conversation with Lloyd Chambers. Whether these differences are significant enough is something that you will have to answer on your own, based on your own requirements.

Note: though I’ve completed enough bench testing to evaluate the camera’s image quality, between poor atmospheric conditions, testing of other prototypes (of course unpublishable) and family commitments around the festive season I have not had an opportunity to produce any images I’d consider worthy of publication. I aim to remedy this in the next couple of weeks, however; check my flickr stream for updates. So, I must apologize in advance for a review that’s somewhat lacking in the usual eye candy.

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Why I must do all the things I do

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I struggled to find an appropriate image to go with this article. I think this works, though: firstly, it was shot with an iPhone, on an occasion I could not foresee doing any photography. But having an open mind and an active eye meant that I saw it; experience/ practice meant that I could make do with the bare minimum, and enjoying cigars meant that I was in the right place at the right time to begin with. All will be explained towards the end of the article…

Don’t worry. Despite the slightly off-topic title, it’s very much a post about photography. This isn’t a moment of existential angst, but rather a clarification of purpose. It isn’t quite the same as article on Why We Photograph from some time ago; it’s far more personal than that. On reflection, I think it’s very important to understand the motivations behind certain things so that a) we might do them better and b) we avoid doing things we don’t enjoy. Especially when there’s a choice.

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