About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How Do You Want to be Seen

Except where noted, all images are from my iPhone 7 and are unedited

How concerned should you be about the quality of the images that you make visible to family, friends and the world. It all depends on what you are looking for from the giant landscape of social media.

Last weekend I had a lovely time sitting out on my neighbor’s lawn while Spencer, their two year old grandson, frolicked in
Spencer and Grandpa : Canon 5D Mark IV
the grass and jump from lap to lap.  He had recently developed a fear of any person who was carrying a camera, but I was able to break through by showing him each picture on the LCD screen.  He was fascinated, and loved to touch, with his greasy fingers, each of the faces.  Especially his own.  I got some nice shots, and Spencer’s proud grandpa wanted me to send them to him right away.  He insisted that he didn’t care if I had edited the best images.  He just wanted them RIGHT AWAY!   He was a bit impatient when I explained that I never simply dump out my raw unedited images.  I spent time that night selecting the three most iconic shots and then trying to bring out their best in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I love working on portrait images and Spencer was an irresistibly adorable subject.  Grandpa was more than please when he saw the results the next day, but this simple interaction got me thinking about how we all control how our images are seen when we set them free.

Whether it is on Facebook, Instagram, or the seemingly endless list of other varieties of social media, we as photographers are judged by everything we make visible to the outside world.  We can exert a bit more control of the images in our own web sites, but our visual footprint is out there, and as we all know, that stuff NEVER goes away.  

How much time should you spend on perfecting your images before you publish them on social media.  There is no single right answer.  It all depends on your audience and on what you want to accomplish by making your work public.  This week let’s consider what the most casual amateur photographer can do to add impact and interest to their published work.  Next week I’ll discuss the much more complicated workflow that I use before I allow my images out into the world.

iPhone Path

For this article, I went out shooting with my iPhone 7.  The camera in this phone is quite amazing and yields results that are as good or better than many low-end point and shoot cameras.  My main problems were that I missed the controls that I have on a DSLR or high-end pocket camera, and it took massive self-control to avoid doing any post-processing on some of these images.  

Weathered Path : Canon 5D Mark IV

There are a number of simple and intuitive photo editing apps available for smartphones, that can improve the images, but I wanted to start with what can be done to get the most out of unedited pictures right out of your phone.

Town Hall Back-Lighting
I would have loved to apply a little shadow adjustment,
But I remained pure.
Most people who publish their images to social media are not professional photographers.  They are not interested in selling their work or in impressing anyone with the quality of their images.  They are happy to just document their lives and the world around them.  There is no reason why they need to go any further, a smart phone and social media are designed for that purpose.  Digital photography has simplified this kind of quick and easy photography for those who do not want to be bothered with the complexities of image making.   I promise to leave you alone – mostly. I have just a few quick suggestions that might, with just a minimum of effort, make your pictures a little more enjoyable for your friends and family.
Ok.  Not so Pure
I couldn't resist editing just one of these iPhone Shots

Understand What Your Camera Does Well

The Macro advantage
Smartphone cameras have small sensors which means that they inherently have very large depth of field.  This is why they generally don’t require focusing. The DOF can help get sharp macro images, although soft backgrounds (Bokeh) can be more difficult to achieve.  Soft backgrounds are also important for portraits and, here as well, the iPhone’s massive DOF can be a problem.

Chipmunk in the Barrel
Smartphone have wide angle lenses which must be compensated for in all types of photography.  Unless the bear is actually chewing on your foot, an iPhone is essentially worthless for wildlife photography.  Add-on lenses are available to expand the range of focal lengths, but again that would be getting into more layers of complexity and you don’t want that.

One of the greatest advantages of smartphones is that they are almost always in your pocket.  The old saying goes that “Your best camera is always the one you have with you”.  Let’s consider a few other ways that you can the most from that “best” camera in your pocket.

Want to see Ten picture of my lunch?

Spray, Pray and Post

It is an old saying that, with digital cameras, we can just “Spray and Pray”, shooting everything and hoping that we may miraculously get one or two usable shots.  After all, pixels are cheap, and we don’t have to worry about wasting film. Today we can expand this saying to “Spray, Pray and Post”.  Too often, on Facebook, we will see five pictures of that delicious meal and, although it is lovely to admire the spectacular lasagna from every conceivable angle, one picture is probable sufficient to tell the story.  

One of the most effective techniques of professional photographers is to only show their best work and the same approach is the simplest way for amateurs look good in social media.  If you have 15 or 20 pictures of that beautiful rainbow, try to pick one or two to post.  Choose the ones with the best light and the most interesting foreground.  No matter who is in your audience, they will be more impressed with your captured moments and less likely to be scared away by a cluttered story.

Simple Rules

Nothing complicated here.  Just a few things to think about whenever you are capturing those quick shots.

Get Close to Your Subject

As I mentioned, smart phones tend to have wide angle lenses and, if you don’t get really close, your beloved subject can be a vague smudge in the distance.  Get close and then take a few steps closer.  The closer you get the simpler and more impactful will be your subject.  Using my iPhone 7 to shoot the horses at Stonewall Farm, I had to get so close that I was expecting the beasts to grab the phone from my hand.

Don’t Forget,
You can turn Your Camera side-ways.

I don’t have the statistics on this, but I would bet that most of the smart phone pictures that I see on Facebook are in portrait mode.  Phones are usually held vertically, but sometimes an image will work better in landscape.  With cameras, I usually must encourage my students to get away from landscape images.  The rule is, “The best time to shoot a vertical image is right after you have shot the horizontal”.  This needs to be flip around for phones.  Think about a horizontal composition right after the vertical.

Better landscape view. 
I eventually figured out how to avoid the finger.

 Avoid Strong Back-lighting

Bright light from behind will cause your subject to be lost in deep shadow.  This can be partially corrected by editing, but we all know you are not interested in that!  Placing your subject facing into the bright sun can cure the shadows, but It can also lead to squinting and harsh reflections.  The best solution is to place Granma in the shade or to shoot under overcast skies.

Nice photo of Jeff, Distracting Background detail


Watch Your Tilt

I don't do many selfies
I am always lecturing about this.  Just ask my son’s girlfriend Gina. To my eye nothing says sloppy careless photography as much as a tilted horizon and it just takes a second to adjust the camera’s orientation. I know that tilted images are popular right now.  This may be largely caused by the selfie rage, but it can be difficult to find a straight picture on Facebook.  

More my style
Of course, it is hard to control the smartphone’s angle when it is suspended on your outstretched arm but it is apparent that many feel that these disorienting images add a sense of rebellious style. There is nothing wrong with that.  It is OK Gina! I am not the composition police.  The old saying fits this situation, “a single tilted image is a mistake, 10 are a stylistic choice”.   

Gina's Tilt

Tilted Horizon - Ignore the finger!
I would only suggest that the camera angle should reflect the situation.  A tilted image is great if you want to show the world that you are having fun with your friends and that you are most likely drunk, but when communicating pictures of a beautiful landscape or your dear family, you may want to make sure that they don’t look like they are about to fall down a hill.

Getting things straight

I could go on and on, but for the casual photographer I will stop here. Get close to your subject. Decide whether a vertical or horizontal composition works best.  Watch out for back-lighting.  Make sure that the tilt of the horizon matches the subject.  And perhaps most importantly only show your best images. 

Finally, have fun.  You are now free to ignore everything and spray away! After all they’re only pixels.

Jeffrey Newcomer



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