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Articles from November 2010

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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