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Tech Podcast Network

BigStockPhoto Diary #1: 40% Acceptance Straight Away!

bigstock_title_250pxlsEncouraged by the good things I've been hearing about acceptance rates at BigstockPhoto (and discouraged by the technical rejections I've been getting on iStockphoto for my S5700 images), I decided to give this micro-stock agency a try, and got several images in straight away!

I just hunted through my collection for shots that I'd uploaded to istockphoto, acceptances and rejections, and uploaded 17 photographs, 9 of which passed inspection. Lets take a look at the ones that got in, and some of the ones that didn't...

Photographs that got in.

Signing up for Bigstockphoto was simple, as you'd expect, but what's really cool is that you can upload photo's via FTP, a quick, painless method that is miles better that using your browser to upload the photo's one by one.

Obviously I have no idea at the moment if I'll sell any of these images, bit if you check out Microstock Diaries, by Lee Torens, he compares all the popular microstock sites. Lee earns on average about US6c US$1 per image, per month. This isn't much, the technique would be to upload loads of images, then they should make you money over the next few years.

The reason why I've stopped uploading to iStockphoto is that almost all my photographs from my budget Fujifilm S5700 / S700 Digital Camera were being rejected due to technical reasons - usually noise or "artifacts". I tried edited versions and uploading "virgin" files, straight from the camera, but they still would not pass inspection.

Hopefully Bigstockphoto won't be quite as stringent, and I can get a few more photographs for sale so I can start saving up for a dSLR....

Now lets look at some of the rejections, to give us an idea of what we shouldn't be doing...

Wooden Gate Against Blue Sky. Reason: Poor composition/Cropped subject: Chopping off part of subject makes photo harder to use generally :-)

Funnily enough, the above one got accepted by istockphoto...

Dscf5187. Reason: Poor composition/Cropped subject: Chopping off part of subject makes photo harder to use generally :-)

Seems obvious enough.

Priddys Hard Slipway With Lamp Post. Reason: [[Poor composition/Cropped subject: Chopping off part of subject makes photo harder to use generally :-) thanks]
Exposure problem: Image is too dark or too light, not properly exposed. You may be able to try using 'Levels' control in Photoshop to fix depending on how bad the issue is. Thanks.


To get accepted into Bigstockphoto you've got to read their photographers tutorial and take a short test, which is simple enough. There's a photographers forum, but as ever one of the best ways to come up with ideas of what to shoot is to just browse through their existing catalogue.

So why not sign up to Bigstockphoto, I'm hoping to earn a little cash towards a new camera, watch this space!

Cheers, Rob.

Photowalk 56: Afternoon Light And Underexposure 

Monks WalkRather unusually for me I took a nice late afternoon walk today, enjoying the warmer weather and softer light.

Nothing spectacular, just some good exercise and lots of fresh air.

Monks Walk
Monks Walk

Today I really started playing around with exposure compensation, namely underexposure. Being late afternoon the light was quite soft, and I used my polarizing filter to enhance the sky, but I wanted to explore the world outside what my camera thought would be a correct exposure.


The above is an example of this. The icy moat was very dark, so the camera wanted to brighten everything up, overexposing and losing detail in the ducks. Using Aperture Priority Mode, I used Exposure Compensation to dial in almost 2 ev, but it brought out the birds plumage quite well.

Priddys Hard
Priddys Hard

Hmmm. This one looks rubbish in my browser - lots of banding in the sky. It looks fine on my monitor in Elements, but I guess there's just not enough detail in the greys. Pity, as I like the look of the moon.

D95 HMS Manchester
D95 HMS Manchester

Not the sharpest of photographs, it's pushing my little S5700 at this focal length, but by under-exposing again, more details can be seen on this old Destroyer.


I'm not sure why I like this one.

Allez Oops!
Allez Oops! 8 of 365.

Thanks for looking at my photographs, I think I need a really early shoot soon.

Cheers, Rob.

Video Book Review: Women, By Annie Leibovitz

women_250pxlsFollowing up from the last Podcast, here's a quick video review of Annie Leibovitz's "Women" photo book.

Apologies for the video quality, bells at the end, and the way that I sound a bit distracted!

You can get "Women, By Annie Leibovitz" in the UK at

Or if you're in the USA, buy it at

Cheers, Rob.

Photowalk 55: First For The New Year!

Black Cat, 6 of 365Boy o boy, it felt good to get out with the camera today - I haven't been for a Photowalk all year! Anyway, it was a lovely crisp lunch-time, not the best part of the day to take photographs, but the light looked OK and I needed to take some frames!

The coat, gloves, scarf and hat went on, a fresh set of batteries in my S5700, and it was off to see what I could see!

Black Cat
Black Cat, 6 of 365

Saw this painted on a garage door on the way to the co-op and had to take a quick snap, knelt down to reduce optical distortion and played with layers in Elements.

Forton Creek
Forton Creek

The sky was really blue today, and popping my polarizing filter on boosted the colour even more. I saw the trees and their great shadows, but they were at the wrong angle to get a nice composition. Then a jet appeared high up, so I took a quick photo including that in the frame.

F239, HMS Richmond Type 23 Frigate
F239, HMS Richmond Type 23 Frigate

I have to say that the wind was whipping in off the water, and every time I took my gloves off to handle my camera my fingers were freezing!

I've always got to take a photo when I see a ship re-arming at Priddys Hard. I under-exposed this one to get around the bright sunlight reflecting off the ships hull, but it's a bit soft, probably because I was shivering too much!

Now That Is A Surprise....
Now That Is A Surprise....

So there I was, taking my usual route towards Priddys Hard, next to a small nature reserve, when I turned a corner to be confronted by two big hairy cows! I haven't seen them here before, and unfortunately they kept their heads down, munching away most of the time, so I couldn't get a good photograph, but this will do until next time.

All in all, today I dusted off a few cobwebs, got a bit of my photography "groove" back on, and hopefully I'll be out again soon!

Cheers, Rob.

Simplifying Composition By Learning The Rules

title_250pxlsI've had some interesting emails from Nugroho discussing composition. Nugroho (also known as Shade) is an event photographer where he works, but was having trouble coming up with other types of photographs.

Rather than simply run through and talk about the usual Rule of Thirds / Leading Lines type stuff, I thought I'd illustrate my ideas with some really simple diagrams.

Remember, I'm no expert, but if you're having a little trouble nailing down your compositions, take a look and it may help.


Simple Landscape Following Basic Composition Rules

As an introduction, take a look at the above diagram. It's a representation of a simple landscape, using some of the basic, foundation rules and guidelines we can use to make our photographs more interesting.

The red grid superimposed on the image is a basic rule-of-thirds grid. The idea is that you line up your horizon on the upper or lower horizontal line, then place your subject(s) on the intersections of the lines.

The road is an example of a leading line. This means that if we use some sort of line, be it curved or straight, it will draw the viewers eyes across the photograph. It could be a road, river, path, fence, shadow, anything that you can use in the scene.

The final part of this landscape is the foreground and background interest, the tree and the mountain / clouds. This helps to give our photograph depth and scale. You could argue that the tree is the foreground, the mountain the middle and the clouds the background. All you have to remember is that to make your landscape photographs more interesting have some strong foreground interest.

Unfortunately we can't photograph beautiful landscapes everyday, but we can take those rules to other photographs, adding "fill the frame" to make sure our subject is dominant (and big) enough.

Rules, Not Guidelines

Wait a minute, surely I've got that the wrong way round? How can I say that there are any hard and fast rules to photography? Well, I believe that as you're learning, and developing your compositional skills, sticking to the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines (where possible) and Foreground / Background Interest (where possible), and Fill The Frame, your photography will improve.

It's a bit like trying to do a wheelie before you've learned how to ride a bike, or how to bake a cake before you can boil an egg. Learn the Rules, use them, then when they're second nature and you don't have to think about them, then bend or brake them, but not before.

Why Do The Rules Work?

Great question. Who decided on these rules and why should we follow them? A grid across a scene doesn't seem very natural at first thought.

It may be easier to think of these rules in reverse, especially the Rule of Thirds. If instead of placing our horizon on the higher or lower line, or place our subject(s) on the intersections, we probably just put our horizons and subjects in the middle. Most "snapshots" look like this. By having all the interest in the middle of the photograph, we're ignoring the rest of the scene, or at least our viewers will, because their eyes will only be drawn to the centre.

The other problem with centre-weighted photographs is symmetry and balance - if a scene looks like it should be symmetrical, it must be, or the viewer could find the image unbalanced. Having our subjects in the centre of the photograph can work extremely well - but it really depends on the context, and is often the exception to the rule.

By putting the parts of our Photograph away from the centre, we are creating a more natural composition. The viewers eyes will explore the scene, following lines, brightness and colours. The final point is that the Rule of Thirds has been used by painters for hundreds of years, it works, and the next time you're looking at any sort of image, be it painting or photograph, imagine the rule of thirds rid across it and decide if the artist followed the rule.

A Mantra To Learn: "Subject, Composition And Light"

Every photograph should have a subject, so before you even put the camera to your eye, look at the scene at ask yourself what your subject is. It could be a scene, object(s), people, something abstract or really anything that catches your eye.

Once you've seen something you want to photograph, you need to decide on your composition, or where you're going to place your subject in the frame or overall scene. Apply the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines if there's any available, Foreground Interest where applicable and Fill The Frame.

The final part of the mantra is the most important. Light. Great light is important for good photographs, to give your subjects depth, texture, tone, colour and feeling. The best light is often early morning, late evening, but we can't always shoot as those times. What you need to do is really look at how the light is falling across your subject and explore the possibilities around that - maybe come back at a different time, try a different angle, use flash or artificial lights, or even reflectors or diffusers. Once you start to understand light, you'll get excited when you look out of your window in the morning and think "I know I can get some great photographs with the light today".

So learn this mantra and apply it all the time: "Subject, Composition and Light!"

Subject - "Fill The Frame"

Lets look at why you should have a strong subject to your photographs, and why you should make it dominant.

Busy Scene - What's The Subject?

So, we're wandering around, looking for a decent scene to Photograph, and we take the above shot. Few! There's a lot going on there, maybe we should choose one subject and fill the frame with it. How about those plants to the left of the road?

Simplifying The Photo

So, we've decided on our subject, the plant, got closer, made our subject a lot larger in the frame and now it's pretty obvious what the subject is.

We've also dropped down on one knee to take the shot so we're not looking down on the plant, and we should turn our camera on its side and take portrait orientated shot.

Remember that in order to "Fill The Frame" we don't have to get right on top of our subject. If you do, you could find it becomes distorted due to shooting at the wide angle of your lens. If possible, keep a little distance and zoom in. This is especially important with man-made objects that should have straight lines, such as buildings, cars, etc.

Making our subject dominant is really important when it comes to people. We've all seen the usual people shots:

Five's A Crowd

In order to convey emotion and feeling, it's important to "Fill The Frame" with our subject, the person. Again, don't shoot wide angle and get right in their face, it'll cause optical distortions, rather hang back a bit and use some zoom. Focus on the eyes and try and avoid background distractions.

Simple portrait.

Obviously these are very simple examples, the idea is just to fill the frame with your subject. One technique to use is to start off with a shot you think is OK, then force yourself to move closer or zoom in. Then keep going, getting closer and closer, flipping between portrait and landscape orientation. You might find that when you get home and review your photographs, it's the closer ones you'll prefer.

In the above examples I've picked solid objects as a subject - a plant and a person. You may find success trying to find shapes, colours, shadows, textures, etc - just keep your eyes (and your mind) open.


So, we've got our subject and we want to start thinking about composition.

The Rule of Thirds is a great foundation to follow. Place your subject on the intersection of the lines, sometimes referred to as "power-points". If its a person or animal, put their eyes on the intersection, usually one of the top two, with any space in the direction that your subject is facing.

Portrait With Eyes Near The Top Right Intersection

Follow the rule of placing your horizon along one of the horizontal grid-lines, and this will encourage you to get your horizons straight too.

Another Basic Rule Of Thirds Composition

If you have another look at the landscape at the top of the article, you'll see the use of Leading Lines and Foreground / Middle / Background Interest. If you can get some lines in, do it. If Foreground Interest could give your shot depth, do it.

To really understand composition and the Rules, you've got to go out and practice. Keep an eye on your horizons. Line up your subjects on the intersections. Fill The Frame. Always be on the look out for foreground interest. Pretty soon you'll be seeing great compositions everywhere, and you'll be moving around to make great compositions.


My best advice for you to discover the different types of light is to go out and shoot at different times of the day. Early or late are best, where soft, low, Sunlight will create lovely colours, shadows and textures.

If you're working inside, shoot next to windows, or set up lights to the sides of your subjects, and study how the light washes over things. Again, practice all the time.

Technical Considerations

While you're trying to improve your photographs through composition, you don't want to be distracted by technical stuff. Shoot in Auto mode and let the camera worry about exposure.

The only technical skill you have to know straight away is how to "Focus and Recompose". This is because your camera will try and focus on what is in the middle of your frame, not something off to one side on a Rule of Thirds Intersection.

To get around this, aim your camera at your subject, then press then shutter button half way down. This will lock the Auto-Focus. Now recompose the shot to your preferred composition and take the shot. Easy!

What's Next?

There's a lot more words in this post than I really wanted to include, as photographs are purely visual, so this is what I want you to do:

Two things. Take loads of photographs. Look at loads of photographs.

So grab your camera and take every opportunity to take as many photographs as you can, following the rules of composition and thinking about "Subject, Composition and Light".

When you're watching a Film or TV, or reading a magazine or book, look at the images in front of you. What composition has the Cinematographer used and why? Why is that advert in the paper shot that way, and what rules has the Photographer followed?

It's all up to you now, and I'll finish this article off with some of my images that I think have strong composition. Take a look and ask what rules have I followed, and how you can do the same.

Ship Graveyard

Look Out Fareham!

My Patch

Good Luck, and I'll see you on Flickr!

Cheers, Rob.