March 30th, 2009

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Photographing people...

I've been getting quite a few "I hate pictures of myself, but this picture you took looks like me and I like it" comments.

Don't get me wrong. I like comments like this.

The "producing a technically good exposure" part is something I'm getting better at, helped by a newer camera with wider exposure latitude and better noise characteristics at high speed. There's still a question of the quality of the light, though. Unflattering light needs to be recognized and avoided. Flattering light can be produced, if necessary.

The "making sure the right stuff is in focus" part is something I'm getting better at, helped by figuring out how to make the autofocus work for me and by getting better at managing depth of field. Making sure that everything that's not important (not your subject) is out of focus is a very basic and very "professional looking" skill. It's also something that requires the right equipment (part of the reason that being able to do it is "professional looking").

The "putting together a pleasing composition" part, that's the obvious (to viewers) and somewhat difficult one. The biggest composition issue? The setting. Backgrounds. Reduce distracting elements and things that just look like they don't belong. Avoid lines intersecting with the subject's head. Blur out the background if it's not important. It's all about learning to look at a scene and figure out what the camera is going to see, and that's difficult. I'm working on it, but I still miss horrible background flaws that can ruin an image all the time.

Where the magic comes in is in the subject.

I'm at my best when I'm a sniper. If I've got a room full of people relaxing and having a good time, I can capture some really great moments.

Otherwise? It's a crap-shoot.

Because I'm not good at instructing subjects.

Because a lot of people get self-conscious when they're conscious of the camera.

Now I'm working on instructing and posing subjects. It's not something that's well-covered in books, though. It's a matter of practice, trial and error. On the other hand, I'm only peripherally interested in formal portraiture. Learning the associated techniques are just a means to an end.

Getting people to relax (or better yet, have fun) in front of the camera? That's the big deal. When folks get self-conscious and freeze or mug badly the pictures just end up looking artificial. It's worse when the subjects believe that they always look bad in pictures; there are few more reliable self-fulfilling prophecies. Subjects who have been plagued by bad photographs are going to freeze up and look unhappy.

How do you get subjects to relax? That's another thing I'm working on.

Showing folks representative and attractive photos of them that you've taken is a great way to get repeat subjects to let their defenses down and let their character and personality come out in photographs of them.

New subjects? Besides shooting them when they don't expect it? I'm not very good at reassuring chatter while shooting. I'm generally not great at talking in the first place while shooting. It's something I've got to work on, though.
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DIY Facebook de-sucking...

OK, I'm not going to rant about the Facebook interface redesign, I just don't care. It's not anywhere near the biggest bit of suck in Facebook.

The biggest bit of suck in Facebook is apps. Useless apps. Stupid apps. Spam apps. Deceptive apps. All without any real oversight from Facebook.

(Yes, I was stupid once, I clicked on a spam app. Never again.)

There's also all the app "status updates." Think about it. Do you really want to share your game status with everyone?

I don't give a damn about your hatchlings, your flair, any of that crap. It's just a virtual version of Let me tell you about my character, it's a half-elf ranger with a plus-twelve longsword and a magic bow and...

You've all been in that discussion at a convention, gnawing your leg off to escape. I suppose I could have updated that for WoW characters instead of D&D. It would have been more appropriately virtual.

That change your perspective on apps posting on your wall and profile?

So if you're a Facebook user, and you're my friend, please consider the following:

Clean up your apps.Your friends will thank you, and your Facebook will start working better.

Avoid new apps
  1. Visit your "notifications" page. Un-check other applications besides "feed comments" and "likes." After you un-check an app, a panel appears above your notifications, and you can mark the application notifications as spam.
  2. If you get an invite to an app, there's a little "block application" link below the invite. Use this link, and you will stop getting invites on that app.
  3. If you know the name of an app, use the "search" bar at the top to find the application's page. You can block applications you haven't been invited to on their pages.
  4. If you do find yourself on an "authorization page" for an app, find the name of the app in the description. Don't click on the big authorize button. Click on the application name link to go to the app's page, and block it.


Block apps. It's the right thing to do.

ETA: Wow... Authorization pages are really your friend. I just went through my newsfeed, clicking on apps that are posting to it, and used the auth page's link to the app pages to block a bunch. I also just found out that if I block apps they stop posting to my newsfeed (in spite of the warnings that suggest otherwise). I'm now rid of Hatchlings and a bunch of others.