Archive for the ‘Photography 101’ Category

The Defining Moment Part 2

Friday, January 9th, 2009

By Barbara Stitzer for

When I first started as a photographer, I shot all day and night, with no regard for light at all. “I don’t have time to get up before dawn and wait to see if something happens”, I thought. I got tons of harsh shadows, especially in scenery, and was constantly disappointed in my results, because the defining moment in scenery photographs is the light on the scene. That’s why I cringe when I see people taking pictures of famous places, like the Grand Canyon at high noon. I just know that when they see their shots, they’re going to be so disappointed because the pictures aren’t going to look like what they see.

There is a really pretty spot near my home where a lot of people come to set up their cameras to shoot the sunset. The gang usually gets there about two or three hours before sunset, and spend forever fiddling with their tripods and lens cleaner, and who knows what else, and then as soon as the last sliver of sun goes under the horizon, they drop their cameras and take off. I’m always stunned. I feel like screaming, “Dude, You’re Missing the Light!”, but I don’t want anyone to get mad and pop me one, so I just set up in their prime spots and shoot away. Another way of finding your defining moment is with light, especially if you’re shooting scenery. The best time to shoot is a half hour before sunrise until an hour after sunrise, and then an hour before sunset until a half hour after sunset. Any time you find yourself shooting a landscape or scenery during the day, just put your camera down, because you’re going to find yourself with blown out whites or shadows with no details and, like those days when you’re out of training, but you still think you can pound down three gold Cadillac margaritas, you’re going to hate yourself in the morning.


An hour before sunset, the light was still on the harsh side, and even though the light was directional and the shadows soft, the picture isn’t anything special, it’s just a bunch of cacti. But right after sunset, the light changed dramatically. The light has fallen off the foreground, but there is enough light there to show all of the detail in the foreground while pointing toward the real scene stealer, sunset at the Tonto National Forest. When the light left the mountains on the forest, I turned to see the last moments of sunset and shot this silhouette of the mountain, I looked around and all of the other guys had gone home! I couldn’t believe it. This shot has sold a million, billion times, and my exaggeration is minimal. So next time you take your camera out at sunset, stick around. You just might be pleasantly surprised.


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The Defining Moment

Friday, January 9th, 2009

By Barbara Stitzer for

You know what really drives me crazy? When you’re at an event, a family reunion, as company picnic, whatever, and some guy starts taking pictures of every little insignificant thing. Like me eating corn on the cob. Corn on the cob in one of my favorite foods in the world, but there is nothing beautiful, funny or interesting about me eating it. Yet, every single time I bring that golden sheaf to my lips, lips stretched back, gums all exposed, tiny yellow gunk in between my teeth, someone is taking a picture of it. Or at weddings. People take pictures of the stupidest things at weddings. Remember about 15 years ago, when the big rage was to eschew hiring a professional wedding photographer in favor of littering fling cameras all over the tables so that your closest friends could capture your most intimate, personal, one-of-a-kind memories? An entire generation of people ended up spending money to develop thousands of pictures of crotches and nose hairs, and nothing to remember the most important day of their lives with.

The diehards call it taking “candids”. I call that kind of photography Kamikaze photography. It’s totally meaningless. What do people do with these pictures? Line their liter boxes? Ick.

In 1948, Photographer Philippe Halsman set off to find the defining moment in a photograph. “Dali Atomicus” featured a crazy looking painter, his easel and chair, all jumping in the air while three cats and a bucket full of water flew toward them. You can check it out right here if you’re not familiar with it: . There was obviously no Photoshop during those times, so every single element had to be coordinated perfectly to time with everything else, creating a “defining moment”, where everything comes together into a moment that is like no other. This is what you’re looking for in every picture that you take.

How do you capture the defining moment? The easiest way is to keep shooting after your subjects think you’re done taking the picture. Most of the time when you take a picture, the only thing on your subject’s mind is “Just take the %$#&^&* picture, already.” And that’s what they look like. They are usually talking, pulling at themselves or looking away from the camera. But after you take the picture, people relax, and you get the true life that lurks behind the pose.

This picture of Courtnie and Perrie is a nice, clean shot. The lighting is nice and you can see how strong their sisterly bond is. If that’s all you get, well, ok, that’s great, but immediately after I took that shot, I pretended that I was done, gave them “the nod”, and then ramming speed hefted the camera back up to my eye right away. I took this shot: Ooh, aah. Yes, Courtnie’s eyes are closed, but SO WHAT? This is the shot! This is the moment. There is something special here, and when you get something special, it’s time to celebrate. And when I celebrate, I eat corn on the cob.


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The Triangle, and Why It’s Important in Your Photographs

Friday, January 9th, 2009


for by Barbara Stitzer

I was so tone deaf in my elementary school band that the teacher had me play the triangle. Do you remember that instrument? A steel triangle with a string attached to a little key attached that you could tap the triangle with and make a little “ding” sound. But that story has to wait for another day, because today, we’re talking about visual triangles.

Why do people stop at one particular shot and ignore another? When you take a picture, you want someone to pick it out from all of the other pictures and call it special, right? The answer can be achieved by triangles of the same color, pose and line. When one or more of these three elements are in a triangle, the eye can’t help but stay on the subject, which is what you want. Triangles force your eye to dart back and forth over the picture, almost mesmerizing you and forcing you to stay focused on the photograph longer than normal,

Here is a shot I did for a musician. He wanted to look professional, but also fresh and new. So I threw my husband’s leather jacket on him for a little bit more of an edgy look than a simple shirt, and had him lean forward on his elbow. He automatically put his hand up, forming triangle number one…his bent arm pointed straight up to his face. I had him tilt his head to camera left, so that his eyes formed an angle leading him back onto the page, forming triangle 2, in the purple, with his head…the angle makes your eye keep going around and around his face. The subject’s texture of his hair and beard in Photoshop were all the same, forming triangle 3, and I took an eyedropper full of the color of the shadow in his face to create the color of the background, forming color triangle 4. Of course, his piercing blue eyes and the Rembrandt lighting on the subject’s face didn’t hurt, but we’ll talk about lighting in another issue.

What if you have more than one subject? ‘The more triangles the “acuter”,’ I always say. Triangle number one, of Annelize, on the left, has her hand over her head with the inside of her elbow opening up to her have, and Amelia, on the right, has her arms crossed over her chest, with the hands open and framing her face in triangle 2. Triangle 3 passes through Annelize’s eyes, down through one of Amelia’s eyes, and might have gone down and to the right if it hadn’t of been for her hands forming that pocket that just forces your eyes back to Annelize. Triangle 4 is subtle…it’s a line of reds, from the bottom of Annelize’s hair, up to the tiny dot in the top of her hair, over to her red lips. And Triangle 5 is also a color triangle—the pea green in the background to the left of Annelize to the top of her hair, which leads to the crook of Amelia’s arm. Do you see it? Good, now get out there and take some triangly pictures! is a social networking site connecting the Baby Boomer generation. Share your thoughts, rediscover old friends, or expand your mind with brain games provided by clinical psychologist Dr. Karen Turner. Join today to discover the many ways we are helping Boomers connect for fun and profit.

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Holding Your Camera, But Were Afraid to Ask

Friday, January 9th, 2009


for by Barbara Stitzer

Ok, so first of all, the most important thing about taking pictures is not the size of the camera, not the megapixels, or film quality or camera brand. It’s not even how much money you spent on the camera. The most important thing about taking a picture is how you hold your camera. “How you hold a camera? How no brainer can you get?” You might ask. Au Contraire. How you hold your camera can change your entire picture taking game.

When I see people taking pictures and holding their cameras wrong, I really want to go up and tell them what to do, but I’ve tried it and no one has ever thanked me…instead, they kind of act like they want to kill me for it, so maybe if I talk about it in a very safe place like this forum, everyone will know how to hold their cameras and I will finally be able to rest.

We’re mainly talking SLR type cameras here, because the bigger the lens, the bigger the impact on the shot you’re about to take and movement can make, but Point and Shooters, lend an ear, because this does apply to you as well.

Pick up your camera and hold it like you normally would take a picture. Your right hand is gripping the camera, index finger on the trigger…that’s the no brainer part, you’re right. But now look at your left hand and elbow. First put your left hand straight out in the air for 60 seconds. Do you notice any wavering or shaking? At any age, the answer most likely would be yes. Most people shoot with their left hand over their lens, pressing down on it, with their left elbow out and away from their bodies. If you hold your camera that way for more than a couple of seconds, the weight of your unbraced hand against the camera will cause the camera to shake, thus blurring your pictures. Your hand should be palm UP, underneath the lens of the SLR or DSLR, or under the body of the point and shoot, not on top of the camera pushing down on it. Your elbows should be in, bracing tightly against your body, so that if you have any shake, or if you’re shooting at an exposure slower than 1/60th of a second, you’re braced against your body, which is bigger and most likely less shaky than your hands. What about the strap? Some people like putting it around their necks, and while that’s a super safe way of holding a camera, it always makes me feel claustrophobic, but with your NEW way of holding your camera, if someone knocks it or you need your right hand for some reason, your left hand is there already underneath, holding the camera as backup. Woo Hoo! You’re now ready to take beautiful, vibrant, amazing pictures. is a social networking site connecting the Baby Boomer generation. Share your thoughts, rediscover old friends, or expand your mind with brain games provided by clinical psychologist Dr. Karen Turner. Join today to discover the many ways we are helping Boomers connect for fun and profit.

Photography 101 By Barbara Stitzer for

Friday, January 9th, 2009

small-annelize-and-amelia_bakfor by Barbara Stitzer

Hi, I’m Barbara Stitzer, and in the following weeks, I’m going to tell you everything that you never knew you wanted to know about photography. I’ve been a photographer for the past 15 years. I was a model for ten, and a soap opera for three, and when my mom came down with lung cancer, I went to stay with her while I decided what I wanted to do with my life. Well, things got really sad, and I bought a Canon AE1 manual film camera to keep my mind off it. There’s a riverbed behind my parents home in Los Angeles, and when it rains, which isn’t very often, some bright guy gets the idea to take a boat down the riverbed and they usually drown, so about three days after I bought my camera, someone was doing just that, and the news crews were there filming a helicopter that was trying to rescue these guys, so I took my camera and ran down there

I didn’t have a press pass, so they wouldn’t let me around the chain link fence to get to where the action was, so I was shooting through the fence, and this guy turned around and asked me what I was doing. “Kind of Obvious,” I said, and he’s like, “Well, you’re on the wrong side of the fence.” I said, “I know, I’m new at this, and they said that I couldn’t go over there” and he got really intense with me, pulled my camera strap through the fence and hissed, “Look, if you REALLY want this shot, just jump the fence.”

I’m still not sure why I decided to jump that fence. But something inside me welled up, and even though I was in high heels, a little short skirt, nylons, and was holding my purse, I did it. I jumped the fence. And he just thought it was so funny…there I was with my little manual camera, and he had this super space age digital model. But I didn’t care. I shot for all I was worth.

After it was over, he asked me to “come to his ‘place’ and develop the film”. I wasn’t about to go to any guy’s “place”…I had, of course, just gotten OUT of that business… but then he gave me his card, and it turned out that he was the head of the LA times photo department, so I went back to the LA Times with him, and lo and behold, my picture was better than his, so he published it and gave me a job. I shot everything from fashion to food to football and everything in between, and then I branched out on my own and started on my new life, winning more than 400 local, regional and national awards in the process.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, and the amazing pictures you’re going to take!

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