Archive for the ‘Workshops’ Category

Color or Black and White? Which is Better?

December 8, 2008

Photos © Copyright Bob Fields

Color photos or black and white photos? Which is better? That is the age-old question that comes with the answer “It depends.” I’ve written before about a similarly difficult question in the Photobird Daily, in the article “How to Tell If Your Photo is a Great Photo“.

Part of the answer to the “color or black and white?” question is that the photographer needs to decide for the audience whether the color version or black and white version is better for a specific photo. The photographer shouldn’t simply leave the question up to the audience to decide.

I agree with this perspective, which is explained to us by Alain Briot of in his free online Fine Art Print Review. Alain conducts workshops throughout the year and we’ve highlighted them in the Photobird Daily before; two upcoming workshops are the Death Valley Spring Workshop in March 2009 and the Antelope Canyon Workshop in May 2009.

In Alain Briot’s latest Fine Art Print Review, he evaluates two versions of the same photograph by Bob Fields. One is in color and the other is in black and white, and Alain explains why he prefers one over the other in his free 13-minute QuickTime video. Alain also explains why it’s difficult to choose one over the other, and the values of black and white photos and color photos in general. Alain Briot has studied at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris and it’s fascinating to hear him provide his perspective on these two photos and to see how he uses Photoshop to evaluate and fine tune the color levels in the color photo.

Alain Briot explains that black and white photos and color photos each have their own benefits and they have different audiences. Some people like black and white photos more than color photos, and vice versa. Alain Briot explains that while we obviously see colors in color photos, and we need color, black and white photos present us with the tones of the image, in black, white, and levels of gray. Black and white photos also illustrate the shapes and contrasts in the image, which are also appealing.

Personally, I like color photos more than black and white photos, but sometimes, specific photos work best in black and white. My feeling is that photos are generally better in black and white, or monotone, if there’s more visual texture or symbolic meaning in the photo. On the other hand, color photos are better if the color in the photo is more prominent. Also, if the content and subjects in photos don’t benefit from color, then the photo may be better in black and white; color can often detract from the photo’s message and distract the viewer.

I also think that black and white photos can often be more difficult to shoot than color photos because the photographer really needs to break down the photo — its composition, its content, its message, its quality — to the fundamental levels of photography in order for the photo to be effective and to be a truly great black and white photo. The photographer needs to really know what he or she is doing to create great black and white photos. It’s not as easy as just pointing and shooting. Much more thought needs to go into black and white photos before you can click the shutter button. You can see some good examples of black and white photos in Mords Saligumba’s photo album on at Mords won the Photobird Award for the Photobird Photo Contest for October 2008 with his photo “the morning after” and he won the People’s Choice Award for the Photobird Photo Contest for August 2008 with his photo “Trance“.

Alain Briot tells us in the video which photo he prefers, but before he got to that part of the video, I had already decided that I like the color version of the photo better. Specifically though, I like the top half of the photo with the green landscape, red-brown mountains, blue sky, and white moon. I don’t care for the dead plant and the rocks at the bottom of the photo. I think they detract from the beauty in the top of the photo, which is the best part and quite stunning.

What do you think of Alain Briot’s Fine Art Print Review and Bob Field’s photo? Please let me know in the comments below.



Death Valley Spring Workshop

November 19, 2008

“Playa Reflections 1”
© Copyright Alain Briot

Death Valley isn’t as ominous as it sounds. As long as you don’t go in the summer. That’s why Alain and Natalie Briot are conducting their 5-day Death Valley & Alabama Hills Spring Workshop in the Spring, March 13th to 17th, 2009. The workshop is open to only 12 participants, and there’s only 3 seats left!

Most of the workshop will be conducted while exploring the harsh beauty of Death Valley, while the end of the workshop will be in the Alabama Hills, where you’ll try to find and photograph the location where Ansel Adams created one of his most famous photographs, Mount Whitney from Lone Pine.

The itinerary for the workshop was designed with two goals in mind: convenient travel arrangements and exciting photographic opportunities. The workshop starts each day before sunrise so that you can photograph the sunrises. Each day will be spent exploring and photographing a different part of Death Valley, from Badwater, Artist Point, and Dante’s View, to the Stovepipe Well Sand Dunes and the Alabama Hills.

The workshop is open to participants of all levels of experience. The workshop is about $260 per day, not including food, lodging, and transportation, which are intentionally flexible for you; some participants may want to camp while others may want to stay in a hotel, for example.

Be sure to read more details of the Death Valley & Alabama Hills Spring Workshop at Alain and Natalie Briot’s website,

And if you just can’t wait until next year and you’re available December 5 to 9, 2008, there’s one spot available in Alain and Natalie’s Death Valley Winter Workshop.


Alain Briot’s Antelope Canyon Workshop

October 27, 2008

“Antelope Light Dance”
© Copyright Alain Briot

If you ever wanted to learn where and how to shoot photographs like the one above by Alain Briot, now’s your chance! The photo “Antelope Light Dance“, shown above, was shot in the gorgeous Antelope Canyon in Arizona, where Alain Briot and his wife Natalie Briot are conducting their 5-day Antelope Canyon Workshop, Friday, May 22 through Tuesday, May 26, 2009. There’s only 5 seats remaining, so contact Alain via his website at if you’re interested in attending.

Alain Briot is a professional photographer and instructor, and his wife Natalie Briot is an art instructor. They have designed this workshop with two goals in mind: convenient travel arrangements and exciting photographic opportunities.

The cost of the workshop is about $250 per day, on-location, with world-renowned professional instructors, including Alain who studied at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris. The workshop is an amazing bargain opportunity. (I don’t receive a commission.) The 5-day workshop includes all fees for Antelope Canyon, Navajo hiking, and entrance fees to both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal park and other slot canyons, but does not include travel and lodging arrangements.

The Antelope Canyon Workshop is a great deal and the perfect opportunity to learn new photography skills and photograph the beautiful Antelope Canyon.

Visit Alain Briot’s website for more details.


Superb Composition of Botswana Safari Photos

October 22, 2008

Photo © Copyright Mark Dubovoy

This past Monday, I wrote that you can see some of the photos from Luminous Landscape’s September 2008 Botswana Safari Expedition Workshop.

I spent a lot of time looking at the photos, and what stood out for me was how well composed they were and how many of the photos related directly to the composition tips I outlined in the article on the Photobird Daily entitled “Composition is Key“.

In my article below, I show you some of the photos and list which of the composition topics relate to each photo. Each of these photos is such an excellent example of those composition topics that I thought they were worth pointing out.

To start, I want to refer you to the article “Great Photos Start with Location and Timing“. It’s obvious that if you’re not in Botswana, at the right time late in the day, aware of where the sun is going to set, hunkered down and patient in the grass with the proper lens and equipment, that you’re not going to be able to capture a photo like the one shown above by Mark Dubovoy. Even if you’re simply in Botswana, there’s preparations to be made.

On a thought related to catching the cat with its mouth wide open, from an unrelated photo set, Frederic Larson answered a fan’s question regarding how he was able to shoot his photo of a Coast Guard helicopter flying in front of the moon, with “If you do it enough, luck flies through your frame.”


Photo © Mark Dubovoy

Framing Your Photo Before Your Take It – The leopard is clearly framed by the two trees.

A Delicate Balance – More weight is given to the tree on the left, which seems to tilt, “push”, or emphasize the photo to the right, in the direction the leopard is looking.


Photo © Copyright Mark Dubovoy

Get Closer. Closer. Even Closer. – Or, in other words, fill the frame, which this photo does, even though the photographer isn’t physically close to the birds.


Photo © Copyright Carolyn Bell

Simplify. – Simplify is similar in concept to “Get Closer. Closer. Even Closer.” Ask yourself, “What is the most important feature in this scene? What is it that I should be photographing in this picture? What is the best part of this photo?” In this case, the face.

A Delicate Balance – The focus is on the face, but other elements in the photo such as the leaves help balance the shot, including some framing of the tree on the right.

Rule of Thirds Redux – The cat’s face is in the upper region of the Rule of Thirds, which also helps balance out the photo.

Avoid Mergers – Avoiding mergers is incredibly difficult when shooting cats in trees because you don’t want to make it look like a branch or leaf is growing out of the head or mouth.


Photo © Copyright Carolyn Bell

Lines are Visually Compelling and Look for Lines to Create Visual Interest – The tree branch is perfect! And nearly on a perfect diagonal. It’s perfectly imperfect — just as nature intended.

Rule of Thirds Redux – The bird is in the upper right of the frame.

A Delicate Balance – Even though the bird is in the upper right of the frame, it’s looking to the left side, where the branch enters the frame. Plus the smaller branch is under the top branch, not over it, which isolates the visual weight of the bird to the top of the photo and helps balance out the bottom. Amazingly perfect!

Simplify. – This photo is probably the most perfectly composed photo of the set.


Photo © Copyright Derrick Ley

A Delicate Balance – The visual weight (not physical weight) of the elephants helps counter the weight of the trees and foliage in the rest of the photo.

Rules of Thirds Redux – The elephants are almost perfectly in the lower-right intersection of the Rule of Thirds lines.


Photo © Copyright Kirk Hamilton

(I really like the lighting in this photo, with its subtle tones; the fur and the grass are similar shades, but you can still see the cat clearly.)

Simplify. – Get in close. No need to show the ground or the feet. That’s not important. What’s important is the cat’s gaze.

A Delicate Balance – The cat is looking back in the direction of the sun, with just enough of the rest of the body and the surrounding environment to provide context.

Finally, while some of these photos would be even more remarkable if they were composed as shown within the camera, without any further editing, it’s worth noting that it’s likely that some post-process cropping was done, as explained in the article “How to Crop Photos to Improve Them“.

Even so, the photos are truly awesome.


Photos from Botswana Safari

October 20, 2008

Photo © Copyright Carolyn Bell

The photos are in from Luminous Landscape’s September 2008 Botswana Safari Expedition Workshop. We alerted you to the two-week, sold-out expedition in the Photobird Daily, in “Your Very Own African Safari” in December 2007 and in “Get Back to Nature in Africa” in February of this year.

Several photos from members of the workshop are here. Definitely well-worth checking out, including Mark Dubovoy’s photos and commentary about the trip.

Andy Biggs and Michael Reichmann of the Luminous Landscape website arranged and conducted the workshop, which included each participant having two separate one-hour shoots from a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter with the doors removed. They hired the same helicopter company that provided aerial service for the Planet Earth series from the BBC when they were filming in Botswana.

Some of Michael Reichmann’s photos from the trip are here, along with a very interesting commentary, including his approach to taking photos on this trip. He also explains why he decided to take his Nikon D3 on this trip instead of his Canon 1Ds Mark III.


Almost Sold Out: Bryce Canyon Workshop

September 10, 2008

“Bryce Canyon at Sunrise”
© Copyright Alain Briot

Alain Briot’s and Uwe Steinmueller’s Sixth Annual Photography and Fine Art Printing Summit, November 7 to 10, 2008, at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is almost sold out. We first wrote about this exciting workshop in May, and there’s still spaces available, with the workshop only two months away.

At this Summit, you will not only have the opportunity to photograph some of the world’s most photogenic locations, but you will also learn the best ways to process and print your photographs to create fine art prints. By the end of this workshop, you will have photographs ready to mat and frame, and memories of a quite unique experience.

Immediately following the Summit, Alain and Natalie Briot are offering a three-day Photography Field Vision Workshop, which is designed to build and expand upon the concepts taught during the Summit by exploring the concepts of creativity and what it means to be an artist.

For more information about the Summit and follow-up workshop, including information on how to register, visit this page on the website.


Composition Is Key

September 8, 2008

“San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at 5:30am”
© Copyright Ed Krimen


A newer version of this article can be found at:


Composition is the key element for great photos. If everything else with your photo is not correct — such as bad color, poor lighting, image noise, and imperfect subjects — but your photo is well composed, you can usually fix the other things and still come out with a good photo.

If the composition isn’t perfect right out of the camera, you can often crop the photo to get the desired composition, but you must start off with a reasonably well-composed photo. You can find details about cropping photos to improve their composition in the Photobird Daily article “How to Crop Photos to Improve Them“. The photo shown above, “San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at 5:30am” by Ed Krimen, could probably use a little cropping or editing at the bottom of the photo to remove the pole in the lower left; otherwise, I’m very happy with it.

You’ll continue to see new references in the Photobird Daily about the importance of composition, but for now, please see the articles below about composition; you’ll find them helpful and they have already appeared in the Photobird Daily.



Please let us know in the comments if you have any questions or comments about these articles.


The Art of Fine Art Printing

August 4, 2008

“Duomo, Florence, Italy”
© Copyright Ed Krimen

Last week, I pointed out “Why the Colors in Your Prints May Be Wrong” and introduced the concept of color management. I explained that since your camera, computer, monitor, and printer all interpret color differently, what you print out may not look like what you see on screen or what you photographed. I also referred you to a very helpful introductory guidebook about color management that Canon allows you to download for free. Be sure to check out that blog post if you’re interested in an introduction to color management.

If you’re interested in learning more about printing photos and color management — and there’s a lot to learn! — I highly recommend that you take a look at the 7 hours of video entitled “From Camera to Print” from Michael Reichmann and Jeff Schewe featured on Michael’s website In the video, Michael and Jeff explore in detail virtually every topic that needs to be covered related to fine art printing, including:

  • Camera settings
  • Printer settings (both Windows and Mac)
  • Current printer models
  • Paper types and choices
  • Color management
  • RIPs (Raster image processors)
  • Soft proofing
  • Profiling options
  • Rendering intents
  • Monochrome printing
  • “If it’s about printing, we cover it — in depth.”

Yes, there’s a lot to learn. But I don’t think it’s entirely overwhelming, especially if you’re serious about getting the best quality prints available for your photographs. And I expect that Michael’s and Jeff’s video will help you easily understand the best ways to achieve those high-quality prints. I think I could’ve used their help on my photo “Duomo, Florence, Italy” shown above; it didn’t print out as well as I’d like and is a little too dark I think, but I still like it.

There is a free 2-minute video preview of “From Camera to Print” available on, so you can get an idea of what the video looks like. If you like what you see and want to see the rest, the videos are available for downloading and viewing directly on your computer. They have a very reasonable cost of only $34.95 for the entire 6 hours and 40 minutes of video, which you can watch over and over and over again — until you can think of nothing else but printing.

Even if you’re not entirely sure whether color management is something you want to dive into right now, I recommend at least taking a look at the free 2-minute video preview, in which Jeff discusses and demonstrates his approach to soft proofing. I suggest watching the preview at least twice to try to get an understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish. If you have any questions about what they’re talking about, please let me know here in the comments or in the forums.

Please note that Photobird doesn’t receive any referral fees for promoting this video. I just think it’s a very helpful video if you’re interested in color management and printing.

We do however receive a small referral fee, at no additional cost to you, when you buy anything from after you click any link anywhere on So the next time you intend to purchase something from, please think of Photobird and click one of our links before you add the item to your shopping cart. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish this blog and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your support!

Composition Mastery Workshop on DVD

July 16, 2008

“Luminous Canyon”
© Copyright Alain Briot

One year in the making. Over 37 hours of audio tutorials. Over 4 hours of movie tutorials. 160 tutorials in PDF format. 12 Photoshop Layered Composition Master Files. 30 essays on composition by Alain Briot in PDF format. An 8×10-inch print of “Luminous Canyon”, shown above, one of the photos discussed on the DVD. The Master File of the “Luminous Canyon” print with the 17 different adjustment layers used to optimize the photo. No traveling nor scheduling necessary to learn from the master himself, Alain Briot of

Alain has recently completed production of his Composition Mastery Workshop on DVD, his most ambitious tutorial project to date. The DVD features everything that he’s learned about composition since he started studying art and photography in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris. The contents of the DVD are similar to what he will be teaching at the Composition Mastery Seminar in early 2009, one of the Trilogy Seminars we mentioned just a few weeks ago.

Your purchase of the DVD also qualifies you for entry into their drawing for $1000 worth of ink and paper, which we covered only a couple of weeks ago.

To listen to Alain’s audio introduction to the DVD, click here to play the .mp3 file. In the audio file, he also talks about what he means by “composition”.

You can also preview a sample movie here from the DVD in .mov format.

Alain has a special price for the first 40 people to order the DVD, so be sure to visit for all of the details on Alain Briot’s Composition Mastery Workshop on DVD.

New Workshops at

June 25, 2008

“Moonrise, Mono Lake” © Copyright Alain Briot

It looks like there is still one seat available in the upcoming Mono Lake workshop this October. Be sure to contact Alain right away if you are interested in attending. If it’s sold out, be sure to take a look at his other workshops and his wonderful photos and website.

Alain has also just announced three new workshops for 2009:

  1. Trilogy Seminars, February 14-22, 2009. This series of three workshops will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and will focus on composition, printing, and marketing your photographs professionally.
  2. Antelope Canyon, April 10-14, 2009. This exclusive field workshop offers five days in Slot Canyon with Alain and Natalie Briot. For a complete itinerary, cost, and availability, be sure to click on the link above.
  3. Navajoland, May 1-5, 2009. Imagine five days photographing in Navajoland, visiting such scenic landmarks as Monument Valley, Round Rock, Church Rock and the Canyon de Chelly. For a complete itinerary, cost, and availability, be sure to click on the link above.

As with all of Alain’s workshops, we recommend contacting Alain post-haste to reserve your space if you’re interested in attending, as they’ve historically had a tendency to fill up fast! Be sure to let Alain know you heard about the workshops on


Which photo workshops have you attended? Were they a good value for the money? What were your favorites and why? Please let us know in the comments.