10 ways to drive photography snobs mad

10 ways to drive photography snobs mad

05 No eye contact

The big book of portrait rules says that there should always be eye-contact been the subject and the camera/viewer.

The theory is that we look at a person’s eyes when we talk to them and they draw you into the picture, but it also enables the photo snobs to say ‘great eye-contact’ when stuck for a comment.

Of course it is possible to produce superb images without eye-contact, and even without the eyes being visible. A portrait doesn’t have to show someone’s exact likeness, it can be about the moment, intended to tell a story or convey an emotion.

Looking away from the camera into the distance, for example, can imply deep thought on important issues (so it’s a popular look with politicians), while looking down often communicates shyness or even amusement.


54 Portrait Ideas: free downloadable posing guide
40 More Portrait Ideas: part 2 of our free downloadable posing guide
Master your camera’s autofocus: which AF points to use and when to use them
Famous Photographers: 225 tips to inspire you

06 Colourcasts

Best white balance settings for night photography: fixing bad colour casts

An overly orange color cast

Most photo snobs are obsessed with correctness so colourcasts are anathema to them.

However, their argument breaks down somewhat when you start shooting sunsets.

If you set a ‘correct’ custom white balance to render subject neutral you’ll take out all the warmth and ambience, you may as well shoot at any time of day.

The best sunset results are often achieved by shooting with the Daylight white balance setting as it expects neutral light and will record the vivid, warm colours of the low sun.

The ‘wrong’ white balance can also work well in other situations.

For example, you may want to use the Shade setting when shooting in mist to enhance the sense of the sun burning through, or switch to the Tungsten setting to give a strong blue cast in fog and make the scene look colder and more wintery.


34 Photoshop effects every photographer must try once
White Balance: Photoshop fixes and in-camera solutions for any situation
What is color temperature: free photography cheat sheet
Color Theory: the best color combinations for photography (and how to take it further)

07 Converging verticals

Problem No. 3: Converging Verticals

If you tip a camera up when you’re photographing a building the side walls will appear to get closer together as they go upwards away from the camera.

This phenomenon is known as ‘converging verticals’ and it can be avoided by keeping the camera straight-on to the building so the sensor it parallel to the facing wall, or by using a perspective correction or tilt-and-shift lens.

That’s fine if you have enough space to move backward to fit everything in, or you have the money to splash out on an expensive lens, but it’s often not feasible.

Alternatively, you can emphasise the converging verticals effect by using a wideangle lens, going close to the base of the building and tipping the camera up to fit it in.

It can work very well in city alleyways where the buildings on either side seem to lean in on top of you.


DSLR Lenses: 7 questions photographers must ask about their next piece of glass
13 photo editing mistakes every photographer makes (and what you can do about it)
Best photo editing tips for beginners: 18 quick fixes to common image problems
Photoshop Layers De-mystified: a beginner’s guide to smarter photo editing

08 Tilting horizons

Classic mistakes when cropping photos: slanted horizon

Landscapes, especially those with trees, buildings or water usually don’t look quite right if they’re photographed with the camera at a slight angle.

We expect to see trees growing straight up, buildings being perpendicular to the ground and water being level and anything off kilter can draw negative comments.

If they’re not you can expect a photo snob to point it out for you.

However, rotating the camera to a 45degree angle from level can produce very dynamic results.

It doesn’t work with every scene (far from it), but it’s a useful, easy technique for all sorts of situations, especially when you want a frame-filling shot of an awkwardly shaped subject.


4 ways to ensure a level horizon
The landscapes greatest challenges: a free photography cheat sheet
How to see photos like famous photographers… every time you shoot
How to compose a photograph: start seeing images where you never saw them before

09 Imperfect joins

Panograph photography: how to and assemble on-trend low-tech panoramas

Joining multiple images is a great way of creating a much larger image than you can normally with your camera.

You can join them to create a long thin panorama, or tile lots of images to make a huge picture with the same aspect ratio as your camera produces.

There are a few panoramic heads available to help you get the perfect shots with just the right degree of overlap and there are several software packages, including Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, that will help you stitch the images together, but the process still requires care and attention.

The tell-tale signs of a joiner, that will set a photography bore clucking, include changes in exposure, vignetting fading in and out, misaligned elements, and barrel or pincushion distortion in each frame creating a wave pattern across the image.

If getting all this right sounds like too much of a performance, why not create a joiner from images that aren’t perfectly spaced or aligned so the end result looks like a stack of prints have been lined up?

There’s a charming honesty to it that can look great. It works for David Hockney.


10 things photographers can do to stop wasting pictures
Master your camera’s autofocus: which AF points to use and when to use them
Photography Basics: the No. 1 cheat sheet for metering and exposure
How to get photo composition right every time

10 Great shots from compact cameras

Canon unveils its first compact system camera: the Canon EOS M

Lots of photo snobs like to trot out the mantra that it’s the photographer that makes the image, not the camera.

But that doesn’t stop them flaunting their top of the range camera at any opportunity or regaling anyone who’ll listen with the tale of the near religious experience when they once touched a Leica M3.

So nothing riles them than when they gaze upon a great image and ask about the settings that were used to capture it only to be told ‘I dunno, I just pressed the button on my compact’.

Of course the truth is that advanced cameras give you more control so there’s more opportunity to be creative, but there is no substitute for a good eye and a creative mind when taking photographs.

And even if you know exactly what settings you used, you don’t need to tell them.


Famous Photographers: 100 things we wish we knew starting out
10 things photographers can do to stop wasting pictures
15 common photography questions from beginners (and how to solve them)
44 essential digital camera tips and tricks