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Children's Portraits

May 4, 2011

The portraits of children taken during the 1970’s always reminded me of late nineteenth-century photos. Families appeared to be on an assembly line in front of a blank backdrop, one followed by another. Only the clothes were different. Even the smiles looked canned. None of the photographs, either of families or children alone, seemed to capture the interior life of a child.

I fell into photography because I wanted to record my own children’s early years. And then I began to discover that all children fascinated me, not only my own. I didn’t view them as giggly small kids, but as individuals, each with their separate character.

Gaining access to my children’s school, working discreetly, what began as a few visits evolved into a project that lasted more than a decade and included photographing hundreds of children as they grew and changed. I learned a craft, fulfilled my original dream of recording my own children, provided other parents with pictures of theirs, covered my expenses, and raised money for the school. This was a win, win for everyone involved.

The few pictures in this show are taken from a series, “Children in Repose,” a body of my work that represents children portrayed as unique individuals with their own strong sense of identity, chosen from more than one hundred families of differing socioeconomic backgrounds throughout New York City, during the mid 1970’s.

I gained access to a wide variety of homes by selecting subjects from the children I knew, working with scouts who seemed to understand what I was looking for, taking my portfolio to headmasters in order to choose children in a variety of schools in different parts of the city (something that could never happen today). I was even bold enough to approach parents I saw on the street and ask for permission to photograph their children. I never knew what kind of results I would get. The child could be terrific, the background might be terrible. I’d pray that at the end of the day, I could get a few portraits that would be meaningful.

Getting a child to relax sufficiently so they no longer think of the camera or hear the click is the moment you able to help them be the person they are. It takes time, enormous patience, being totally focused on what is typical and what is not, so that when that one moment occurs you are able to grab and record it.

These recorded moments demonstrate clearly how boys and girls are different. Although we know this, it is even more obvious in my portraits. Boys for the most part have a more aggressive stance, and girls are more seductive. My photographs of children also underscore the fact that differences in socioeconomic background have a profound effect on how we emerge as men and women. Children on the lower economic scale are freer, their body language far looser. Going up the economic ladder children become significantly more inhibited; they are more self-conscious and stiffer. I didn’t set out to make a sociological statement, but the more pictures I took the more I noticed these differences.

The whole series was a labor of love and passion. The project came to an end when I was satisfied. I had photographed children in more than one hundred families, but as no one was interested in portraits of other people’s children, the pictures languished in my laundry room, untouched for more than thirty years. When I decided to redo the storage closet, I threw out fifteen to twenty boxes of archival prints, proof print, contact sheets, and negatives, including much of the work from my book “Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Have Shaped our Times.” But as the children’s portraits were about to go, I thought “No… I can’t, I really love these.” So they remained untouched for another six years, until I needed more material for a website.

To see more portraits I’ve taken, please visit my gallery,

Lynn Gilbert

Lynn Gilbert is a photographer from New York. Occasionally she writes an article for Parade.

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Meet Spartan

April 26, 2011

We’re introducing a new template today, and it’s another full browser design. Meet Spartan:

We’ve tried to strip everything else away. Minimal menu and navigation. Minimal design. Minimal everything.

Want to see something cool. Just hit the spacebar and you be left with nothing but the picture. Use your keyboard arrows to navigate and just see pictures.

Here’s the demo for you try out: demo

If you’re not using Parade and would like to start using this design for your portfolio, you can sign up today. You’ve got 14 days to try it for free without any obligations. Go ahead and try it now!

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Featured Parader: Curtis Baker

March 1, 2011

Curtis has been using Parade for his portfolio since 2009. This is how he describes himself and his work:

I am an Atlanta native and I love my city. I like taking a non-traditional approach to my photography and shooting what hasn’t been photographed hundreds of times before. I like to shoot outdoors using natural surroundings where the possibilities are endless. I like to let things happen and do my job documenting. I am very laid back and easy to work with. I like for the subjects to be comfortable and natural looking as possible. Posing too much takes something away from the look that I’m going for. I want to create, so I am always open for ideas while shooting. After all, these photos are for you.

We make Parade for people like Curtis. If you liked what you saw, you can check out more of Curtis’ photography on his portfolio:

Visit Curtis’ Portfolio

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What Is A Portrait?

February 1, 2011

What is a portrait? According to the dictionary it is a picture of a person, a description. It can be a photograph, a sketch, a sculpture, but a portrait is so much more than that. It is collaboration between the subject and in this case the photographer.

Louise Nevelson, Pace Gallery, New York City – copyright Lynn Gilbert

In many ways the photographer controls the collaboration and can put forth a final image of what he or she sees and how that photographer wants it to reflect on his or her work. However, for me a real portrait and getting it right, is a true balance between the subject and the photographer

A photographer will come to the moment when his own personal style, and how a portrait should look merge together. There is the equipment, knowledge of how to use it (which has a great bearing on the final image), but beyond the known and quantifiable, the unknown and more importantly–the psychology of how the photographer sees the world and a person that infuses everything that he portrays.

The subject in many ways is at the mercy of the photographer and ultimately it is his image. Much of how that final image is seen depends on the day, the time, and how well or how badly the subject is feeling. Is the person fresh, tired, beset by concerns, all of which will subtly show through in a final image.

The key is the photographer. Will the photographer help a person look their best, not to create a false image, but to get beyond the moment and capture the essence of the person that is characteristic of who they are. Not just at that moment, but who they are as a person, recognizable at any given time.

Most people, and I say most, dislike being photographed. I’ve photographed hundreds and hundreds of children, and 46 luminaries for my book, and it never changes. I’m not sure why, but it’s just there. Perhaps someone will see our inner soul, and see all our imperfections. Perhaps it is that equipment, that camera that is thrust between you and the photographer, something that is almost threatening.

The goal is to get beyond that uncomfortable feeling, put the subject at ease, and gain the person’s trust. Let them know and show them, that someone in many instances an absolute stranger, is trying to help them look the best that they can.

Achieving that level of comfort is not so simple. What works for me, is to keep the conversation flowing freely, and get them to talk about the things they love and do—not in a prying way, but just to get beyond the awkwardness of the moment.

With children there are loads of things to talk about, with an adult, not so simple. If the person is well known, before a meeting I go to the library read all their interviews, although in this electronic age, I can sit at my computer, and probably get everything that I need. No matter how nervous I am, because I’m always worried about whether or not I will get “it” (that one image that truly captures the spirit of the person), I just touch on the subjects that I think they might enjoy talking about. It always gets someone to step outside themselves and not focus on the moment. It always works.

As the conversation progresses I keep clicking the camera, not because I think I’m going to get a good picture, but to get them used to that clicking sound and forget what is happening. And forget they do, it becomes part of the experience.

The moment will arise when the persons is completely relaxed, their mannerisms become apparent, and they are at ease with not only the camera but I as the photographer. This is the moment when their true portrait, the one that captures their essence happens.

To see more portraits I’ve taken, please visit my gallery,

Lynn Gilbert

Lynn Gilbert is a photographer from New York. Occasionally she writes an article for Parade.

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DIY Instagrams

January 10, 2011

Instagram is a hugely successful iPhone App. If you own an iPhone, you probably have it or a similar app like Hipstamatic. Either option combines the instant satisfaction of Polariods with the look and feel of a Holga camera.

Not everyone owns an iPod though. However, if you do have a camera and access to Photoshop you can “instagram” your own photos. It’s a much lengthier process, but you will have the added benefit of more control over the results. In the following tutorial, I will take a photograph of mine and “instagram” it. While Instagram allows you to choose filters for varying looks, I will only be demonstrating one process. You should be able to modify these basic concepts to achieve whatever look you like though. A quick note. Photoshop is a wonderfully complex tool and many of these steps can be achieved in any number of ways. I make no claims about doing this the “right” way. Many of these steps have also been simplified to make the process more accessible.

Step one: Choose an image. Make it a good one. A bad, unedited image will result in a bad edited image 100% of the time. As you can see, I may or may not be following my own rules.

Step two: Curves: Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Curves

Photoshop’s curve feature is really the quick and dirty way to make drastic colour changes to whatever photograph you happen to have in your possession. A lot of tutorials will tell you to drag the curve line to a pre-determined set of coordinates. Don’t bother. Pre-set curve settings rarely work because every image is different. Instead, know what you want to achieve before hand, and manipulate the Red, Green, Blue channels until you get close to what you want. To make simple, but effective adjustments, drag the curve line from the centre and move it either directly up or down. For instance, to give your image a warm colour cast, drag the red curve up, and the blue and green values down.

For better results, try manipulating other areas of the tone curve. For example, select the blue channel and push the bottom third of the curve up, while pushing the top third down. This will give the shadows in your image a blue colour while reducing the amount of blue in the highlights. Reversing the process with the red channel will give you red highlights. The result is an image that has blue shadows and red highlights, which is very appealing visually. Most of Instagram’s filters employ colour contrasting shadows and highlights in this manner.

Step three: Wash out your photo. Layer->New Adjustment Layer ->Levels

Some Instagram filters tend to wash out the photo. In other words, the image appears slightly foggy and the shadows aren’t completely black. The easiest way to achieve this is to bring up your level adjustment toolbar and move the black output arrow to the right. Adjust according to your own personal tastes.

Step four: Blow out the highlights.

If your image already has blown highlights feel free to skip this. Again, this step can be done any number of ways. In the interest of simplicity, we are going to keep using the levels tool bar. Simply move the white arrow under the levels graph to the left until your highlights become bright white. In any other photo editing circumstance, this is not usually a good idea. You want to retain highlight detail, not lose it. Photo fidelity isn’t really our aim here though.

Step five: Add some grain. Filter->Noise->Add Noise

One of my favourite aspects of Instagram has to be the grain filters produce. The iPhones camera more than likely contributes to this as well. First, duplicate your photo layer (Right click on the image in the layers bar and select duplicate layer). Open up the “Add Noise” box and move the slider to the right. Make sure you have the selection boxes set to “uniform” and “monochromatic”. Don’t go overboard.

Step six: Crop and add a border.

Select rectangle marque tool, change the style to fixed ratio and enter “1” in width and “1” in height. Drag your cursor across the photo. Select “Image” in the menu, and choose crop. If you don’t like your crop, simply press command/control+Z. If you like, you can also add a film border. You can find a number of great borders at PShero. You will likely have to resize your image to make them fit properly.

That’s it! Remember, you can manipulate the curve values to achieve virtually any colour cast. Play around and have fun. Here are a few more “instagrams” I made using the same process.

Taylor Summach is a photographer from Manitoba who also writes for Parade. Check out his website

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Using Textures To Enhance An Image

December 16, 2010

This decmeber we’re in search of christmas images, and John Barclay sent in this image along with a link to his screencast showing his editing process.

Thanks for the photo and the video John! You can visit John’s site (it’s a parade site) at

You can send us stuff too: if you have something you’d like to show or share, just send it in to

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Featured Parader: Jeff Seltzer

December 9, 2010

Jeff Seltzer is a photographer based in Los Angeles. He was educated at San Diego State University, receiving a BA and an MA in Rhetorical Theory – a background which informs his art. This is Jeff describing his work:

My formal education is more about science – statistics, experimental design, and rhetorical theory. With statistical analysis, the goal is to sift through numbers and create a story true to the data – a story that can be understood and appreciated by a more general audience. In a similar way, I look through my camera’s viewfinder in attempt to reconcile the everyday “data” that surrounds us.

I find comfort and solace in this otherwise anxiety-producing world by creating a sense of harmony among the seemingly unrelated, mundane data around me. There are so many things I can’t control; but what I can control is what I see through my camera and how I present it to the world through careful framing and composition. My interest is generally not with the subject itself, but with the challenge – almost need – of creating and restoring this sense of order (or harmony).

Jeff’s work has been shown, published and awarded numerous times all over the country. Here are just a few listings:

2010: Vermont Photography Workplace, “Direct Objects: Still Life as Subject”
2010: The Elaine Fleck Gallery, Toronto, “Fine Art Photographers to Know”
2010: M Street Gallery, Los Angeles, Solo Show

2010: Best of Photography Annual, Photographer’s Forum
2010: Wall Done Magazine (online)
2009: Colours Magazine

Awards and Recognition:
Finalist, Photographer’s Forum
Honorable Mention, 4th Annual Int’l Photography Masters Cup
Finalist, Wall Done Magazine

Notable Collections:
Credit Suisse, New York
Fine Arts Building, 6th Floor, Los Angeles
Recess, Glendale

We’re very pleased to have Jeff as one of the talented artists using Parade. We hope you’re inspired by his work.

Visit Jeff’s Portfolio

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Getting The Most Out Of Holga

December 1, 2010

Over the last few years, lo-fi photography has grown incredibly popular. Retro cameras like the Diana, and the Holga are being pulled from the trash bins and put into regular use. From a technical perspective, these cameras are abysmal.  They leak light, produce blurry, out of focus images, and are anything but consistent. Of course, these imperfections are what draw people to shoot lo-fi. That and lo-fi cameras encourage a rather carefree approach to photography. The Holga, has nothing more than shutter button, a basic focus ring and two switches. Mechanically, there are fewer cameras simpler than the Holga.  And yet, for all its simplicity there is a lot that can go wrong when using one. Light leaks can be endearing, but they can also ruin perfectly good shots. Furthermore, the Holga’s less than stellar construction creates all sorts of problems that can lead to film scratches and spool slippage. For these reasons, I’ve created a quick tutorial to help out new Holga owners.

First things first. If you don’t have one already, you should probably order one. Some places  sell a standard Holga for upwards of of $75. Don’t bother spending your money here. You can purchase the same product minus the useless flash elsewhere. I suggest Holga Mods. A standard Holga 120N can be had for roughly $24, whereas the modded (and much better) version can be purchased for $32.

If you already have a Holga, and haven’t modified it or are unhappy with the results you are currently getting, here are the changes I’d suggest. You may want to shoot a roll of 120 first in order to determine whether you like the shots your camera is producing before you go ahead with a few of these modifications as much of the work done will eliminate any existing light leaks. However, at $5 per roll, plus development costs, its nice to improve the chances of a good result.
First, I’d recommend taping the edges of the walls that surround the shutter box. These walls are quite rough and tend to scratch the film when the spool is turned. I recommend electrical tape.

If you like, you can then seal off all the edges within the shutter box with gaffers tape or electrical tape. In this case, gaffers tape is the ideal choice because electrical tape isn’t quite light tight. If you are forced to use electrical tape, make sure to add more than one layer. This step is especially necessary if you have an older Holga model, as there are two small holes at the top of the shutter box that will leak light.

Next, I would recommend jamming a small piece of thin cardboard between the bottom of the right spool and the camera base. Because of poor design decisions, the spools within a Holga are quite loose, which can result in a loss of film tension. The cardboard insures that the spool is held firmly in place. I find a business card folded in half works best.

You will also want to tape down the bulb switch so it does not move away from “Normal” mode. The switch is located on the backside of the camera. Because of its location, it is quite easy to accidentally shift it. Unless you have a tripod on hand, you really shouldn’t be in bulb mode, so it is best to tape it down and avoid ruining all your shots.

Finally, use some gaffers tape or electrical tape to cover the red viewing window on the back of the camera. This window isn’t supposed to let in light, but it does. In order to avoid fogging your film, tape over it. You can pull back the tape when you are winding your film, just make sure to replace the cover afterward. I also like taping a focusing chart to the back of the camera. This chart corresponds to the images on the focusing ring. Your chart should contain the following information:

Hope that helps! Here are some of my results with this setup. You can see more here.

Taylor Summach is a photographer from Manitoba who also writes for Parade. Check out his website

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Parade First Impressions

November 17, 2010

In the past, I attempted numerous times to build my own website. Those were horrible, shameful times, filled with much strife and embarrassment. For me, coding CSS ranks up there with some of the word’s most frustrating activities, like calling a government agency or building a tower of cards . Thankfully, in this glorious, information age we call the present, there are actually people who will build websites for you. Enter Parade, a online portfolio service that caters primarily to visual artists and photographers. In their own words,

We wanted to help spread the great stories and inspiring ideas, so we created an affordable product with great designs that allows you to instantly get your work online and easily manage your website, anytime anywhere… so your can spend your time doing what you do best: creating more for us to see.

Recently, I was offered a chance to try Parade out for myself. I happily accepted and now present you with a few of my impressions.

Using Parade over the past few weeks has been an enjoyable experience. The back-end (the area in which you organize and upload photos) is simple to use and intuitive. If you’re one of the 500 million people who can use and navigate Facebook, you shouldn’t have any problems using Parade. It’s simple and it won’t tell you that your long lost cousin Martha’s tummy hurts. An added bonus if there ever was one.

The templates available to users are fairly standard when compared to similar online products, which is by no means a bad thing. All of them are clean visual designs that do not take attention away from the art you put on display. Each design allows for some customization, allowing you to change certain colors and typefaces in order to suit your own preferences. Uploading photos and organizing them into galleries is as easy as any photo management system.

Ultimately, the small details are really what impressed me most about Parade. For instance, when uploading photos, the service suggests using an sRGB color profile. sRGBs insures that each image displays correctly across a multitude of web browsers; a point that cannot be stressed enough, especially if your site is functioning as an online gallery. For those new to publishing their work online, this bit of information is rather important, and yet is often missing from most photo management systems. I’m looking at you Flickr.

The folks at Parade also do a good job anticipating problems that may arise, and place helpful tool tips throughout the back end to help you as you go. There is a fairly complete help section available, complete with how-to videos if you have further questions. Oddly enough, the videos can only be viewed from the help home page and cannot currently be accessed from help sections they pertain to. In the future, I’d like to see this changed.

Regardless, Parade offers a full featured service that is worth looking into if you want to create an online portfolio.

Taylor Summach is a photographer from Manitoba who also writes for Parade. Check out his website

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A Pro-Post Post

November 5, 2010

When I began taking photographs, I posted everything to Flickr.  As my skills developed, looking back at my past work became more and more of embarrassing experience.  Of course, images posted on Flickr are not engraved in stone or even paper for that matter.  It’s pretty effortless to delete them.  No one would know.  The first photo I ever posted likely hasn’t been looked at in over three years.  And yet, it’s quite satisfying looking through my photo stream to see how my photos have evolved.  Aside from composing better shots, I’ve also become a much better editor.  Here’s a quick look at the evolution of my post-production.  In most cases, I’ve taken the best examples of each phase.

June 10, 2006 – I think this is the first shot I ever “edited.” Back then it would of been in iPhoto and would of been no more than moving the saturation slider to MORE SATURATION.  Back then, you could never have enough.

July 25, 2006 – A month later, most of my post-production work looked something like this.  For a long time, this was my favorite shot.  At that point in time, I believe I had decided that taking pictures of small inanimate objects was my “thing.”  For the next few weeks or so this type of photograph was all I did.  I can’t say I know what my work flow looked like then, only that I had switched over to Photoshop.

August 19, 2006 – Ah yes.  Shadow/Highlight.  A tool in Photoshop that allows brighten shadows, bring down highlights and create a lot of mid-tone contrast.  After being let in on the secret, I made it my mission to use to all the time, regardless of whether it served the photograph or not.  I also started using textures and vignettes at this point.  I actually still really like this photograph.  I would edit it very differently but I would take it the same way.

January 3, 2007 – My use of texture continues unhindered.  I had also purchased a macro lens by this point so I began taking a lot of close-up portraits.  By now, I had begun making my own textures by photographing walls, crumpled paper and other surfaces so I didn’t have to keep ripping off other people.  In many cases, my use of texture was completely unjustified.  However, in this case I think it serves the photograph.

May 25, 2008 – Yup, still going.  I believe this is one of the last photographs I ever added texture to before cutting myself off completely. In this image, I  spent a lot of time working them into the background while leaving the foreground grit free in order to create an interesting contrast.  I had also begun to make extensive use of layer masks at this point in order to selectively lighten and darken specific areas of the photo.

May 31, 2008 – One fateful day, I tagged along with a few other photographers to photograph these two abandoned buildings.  The light was incredible.  Because I was shooting in RAW, I was able to alter the white balance to further enhance the lighting aesthetic.  Up until that point, I had nearly always gone with the camera’s white balance reading.  Following this trip, I began opting to choose select extremes on the white balance scale in order to achieve bold, almost unnatural color.

July 24, 2010 – I’ll leave you with a shot taken this summer.  Recently, I’ve been working at achieving a more subtle look while still maintaining a high level of polish.  I believe I’ve succeeded in this particular case. I’ll likely go back to a more vibrant look in the future, but for now I like where I’m at.  Maybe in four years I’ll look back and cringe.

Taylor Summach is a photographer from Manitoba who also writes for Parade. Check out his website.

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Hallow's Eve October Contest

October 26, 2010

Getting prepared for Halloween everyone? We know we are.

Those eyes… and to think these dolls were for children!

To help everyone get into the spirit of Halloween, we’re having a Contest for the Creepiest Photography. After the halloween weekend, we’ll look over the submissions and the winner will get a Parade account for a year. A YEAR!

So get out your gear and start snapping something could make a person ill at ease.

Couple pointers:

  • The photo does not have to be blatantly about Halloween. It just has to be creepy.
  • A story with how you got the photo would be helpful/fun.
  • Please don’t over Photoshop. Let your lens speak truth.
  • Since this is going out a little late, we’ll give you till Nov. 7th to get your photo in.

Send us your submission on this site, or just message @paradepro

Don’t forget: Nov. 7th

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Silk Route Interiors

October 25, 2010

Also known as: Getting into homes to photograph interiors in foreign countries without knowing the people or their languages.

You might ask what possessed a sophisticated Jewish New Yorker of a certain age, to travel down the coast of Turkey, Syria, and Jordan using public transportation, stopping off in countless cities, meandering through the streets of ancient villages to photograph interiors of Nomad, Gypsy homes, and finally into Bedouin tents in the desert. Or how presumptuous it was to think I could actually get in to these homes and tents whose owners I didn’t know or had no connection with. Or, if I ever for a moment entertained the idea that I would travel all that distance and not accomplish what I set out to do. It doesn’t hurt to be curious, creative “never quit, never give in” New Yorker.

copyright Lynn Gilbert 2010

My guide and I had to submit to brutal waves of heat that flowed over our bodies traveling through the Sahara, but going in to a tent was close as close to Nirvana as you can get.

What was it about interiors, that has always touched my soul. Probably it was the imprint of my mother’s own fascination with design. More than fifty years ago she “turned me on” to a life long passion when MOMA opened the most magnificent homes to its members, and ever since I was old enough to travel on my own, I’ve been making pilgrimages to see homes all over the world.

The great homes and not so great homes of Great Britain were my training ground where I traveled just for that purpose for at least 30 years. Throughout the rest of the years there were places like India, China, Bali, Sweden, Peru, Russia, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, amongst a few, not leaving out our own US, going up and down the Eastern Coast, mostly on my own. And then finding and testing various architectural travel groups until I found the perfect fit, only joining groups because there were places I couldn’t get in to on my own.

It is only through this kind of visual feasting year in and year out and over more than half a century that the impact of “seeing” has greater meaning.

This last journey was magical. Who would ever guess that homes by our standards—which have no possessions—had such great beauty and an impeccable sense of style and design, not good but great. Using color, pattern, texture, proportion and a disciplined sense of scale, rich or poor, design is in their bones. 

copyright Lynn Gilbert 2010

Nomads—the word conjures up wanderers—were the aristocrats of this group. Some homes were like those of feudal lords, but even the poor ones in little villages had a flawless sense of style.
Bedouins, who had “nothing” and used almost “nothing,” managed to create a sense of beauty and repose that would calm even the most frayed nerves.
And the gypsies—well, gypsies are gypsies. There is a wildness and freedom that is inherent in their lives …and their style. They also prided themselves on their homes, even though they didn’t possess the discipline.
One big strong gypsy woman grabbed me by the wrist and started skipping with me through the village, with a gaggle of 50 gypsies tagging behind, my guide cracking up, and the taxi driver shouting in Syrian, “We have to go!” But my new gypsy friend, who had me powerfully in her grip, wasn’t having any of that,….not until I photographed her home also. I could feel her burst with pride when I walked through the door. And she had every reason to: for a gypsy it was really out of the ordinary, with embroidered doilies on her book shelves.
What could be more exhilarating than the heart thumping surprises going through a door, passing through the flap of a tent, and confronting the kind of consistency of design that makes your jaw drop?

What a “trip!” in every sense of the word. Will I do this again? You bet.  I have a list of places to go. I just hope the old bones hold out.
Should you want to get a tiny smattering of what I saw, check out my website

Lynn Gilbert

Lynn Gilbert is a photographer from New York. Occasionally she writes an article for Parade.

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Featured Parader: Taylor Summach

October 19, 2010

This month we’re excited to announce Taylor Summach as our Featured Parader. The pleasure is doubly ours because we’re also pleased to have Taylor on board as a parade writer.

Hailing from Manitoba, Taylor describes his work this way:

‘What drives me most as a photographer is the satisfaction that comes with taking a good image, though admittedly everyone else’s approval is nice as well. I’ve always loved art and have dreamed of being some sort of artist since I was young. When I began doing visual art of my own, I nearly always wanted to create pieces with bold colors. Admittedly I wasn’t that good. When I first picked up a digital camera and found I could produce those same bold colors in my photographs, I knew I had found my medium.’

Taylor is an emerging photographer, who has had his work featured in Popular Photography and sells some of his work through Getty Images.

(Check out Taylor’s site at

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October 18, 2010

The sage Huey Lewis, in his infinite and uncontested wisdom, once said, “It’s hip to be square.” It’s just as true today as it was way back in 1986. In tribute to Mr. Lewis, I’ve begun photographing hip people and placing them in square boxes as a sort of visual metaphor for one of the world’s great truths.

In truth, this ongoing series of portraits began when I created my own DYI beauty dish. A good friend of mine created the initial design for use with a dedicated camera flash. You can find his tutorial here. Upon modifying the design a bit, I discovered that the dish, assembled from no more than cardboard, A4 sheets and tape, produced wonderfully punchy portraits. The dish creates a natural vignette (so trendy these days) and minimizes the hard shadows that typically result from a bare flash. Because of the materials used, the dish really limits the amount of light the flash outputs. Initially, I was using a really cheap flash that didn’t produce a lot of light. To mitigate the problem, I used a wide angle lens in order to get close to the subject and maximize usable light. After upgrading my flash, I decided to stick with the same technique in order to maintain consistency.

This is an example of the result I’m getting with my current set-up. It was taken ISO 200, f 4.5, at 1/60s. The flash would of been fired at 1/8 to 1/4 power depending on available light. In my opinion, this shot looks good straight from camera but I put in some work in post-production anyway. When I edit these, my general goals are to eliminate any blown highlights, color correct the photograph, and sharpen the image. In most cases, I also selectively darken and lighten areas using layer masks in Photoshop in order to give the image even more punch. For these portraits, a square crop seems to serve the image best. Eventually I’d like to have 36 separate portraits, print them out, and arrange them in a 6 by 6 square, obviously. Here is the finished product. You can see more on my website under “squares”.

Taylor Summach is a photographer from Manitoba who also writes for Parade. Check out his website.

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What makes your portfolio website search engine friendly?

October 4, 2010

If you want to get your site higher on a search engine’s list (and we all do), you might be scratching your head on how to do it. Maybe you’ve tried some things and you can’t break past 47th. Maybe you’re considering invoking the SEO gods to grant favour on your site and bump you up a few spots.

The truth is it doesn’t take magic to help a search engine find your site, it just takes good code and hard work.

What does good code look like?

Believe it or not there are standards set for code. Some code can be messy, and it makes it harder for search engines to comb through the content to find things that tell the search engine what’s there.

Other sites are clean, but they are built with flash. This may not look like a problem for someone viewing your site because they are drawn in with all the cool swoops and swirls of a flash site. The problem is that search engines can’t see content on flash websites. The Flash text doesn’t show up in the code that the search engine sees, so it could be passing by your site without seeing your content.

What kind of work does it take to get my site seen?

Search engines love two things: good content and lots of links back to your site. When you write content, make sure that it is on topic and well-written. Write as often as you can (using a blog helps).

Also make sure to write other places on the web and link back. Comment on other people’s blogs, make links in your facebook status. Use twitter and draw people back to your site. The more links that refer to your site on the web, the more a search engine is going to recognize your website as a valid and trusted source of information.

Just make sure you aren’t making any enemies out there on the web. No one likes off topic comments or tweets that look more like spam.

If you need to know more about Search Engine Optimization check out our article in the knowledge base.

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