Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't Photograph When The Sun Is High? Nonsense!

El Capitan Reflection - Yosemite National Park, California
Captured at 10:48 AM.
Something that I have heard said many times over the (roughly) two decades that I've been capturing images is that you should put your camera away at midday. Good light doesn't exist when the sun is high in the sky.

That, of course, is nonsense. Good lighting exists any time of the day or night if you look hard enough for it. It's just that at midday good light is less prevalent and less obvious. But it does exist. And since good lighting exists when the sun is high, there is no reason to put your camera away at midday.

Some photographers will not capture images outside of the golden hour. When the sun is close to the horizon is when one will find the most obvious and most plentiful quality light for photography. That's an excellent time to be out photographing.
We Will Deliver - Rosamond, California
Captured at 2:01 PM.
I don't think one should limit himself or herself to just those time periods around sunrise and sunset. I've captured some of my favorite photographs with the sun high in the sky. If I didn't have my camera out at midday I would have missed those opportunities.

Photography is painting with light. Good light is required for good images. You have to seek it out. You have to actively look for it. Don't just assume that it doesn't exist just because of the time of day. If you are not finding it you just need to look a little harder.

Don't put your camera away when the sun is high. If you do than you are giving up the opportunity to capture some good photographs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Software Choice

Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
Software doesn't create art--artists do. People sometimes get carried away with gear and post-processing programs.

Software is important in that you cannot just imagine an image and--poof!--have that as a tangible photograph in your hands. Perhaps something close to that will one day exist, but here and now we have to use real technology to achieve what we want as artists. Software, such as Photoshop, is one example of technology helping photographers create art.

But no software is capable of creating art outside the existence of an artist. The artist directs the software to turn an exposure into finished work.

For me, the fewer the steps the better. The less time that I have to spend in front of a computer screen the more time that I can spend making exposures (and doing other important things). I want the post-processing process to be as simple and streamlined as possible. Yet, at the same time, I don't want to compromise my artistic vision for the sake of simplicity.
Purple Thistle Blossom Macro - Tehachapi, California
I'm often asked if I "Photoshop" my photographs, and the truth is that I do not. I don't even own Photoshop (or rent it). But I do post-process all of my photographs.

As best as I can, I try to get everything "right" before opening the shutter. I take care to ensure everything is how I want it before the exposure is made. No amount of post-processing can "fix" a poor photograph. A photograph must be good to begin with.

I use post-processing software to take a good exposure and tweak it to match the vision in my mind. I don't drastically transform an image in post-processing, but I do transform my images using software with a bunch of minor adjustments.

The software of choice for me is Alien Skin's Exposure. Right now that's all I'm using. It's quick, accurate and easy. I get the look that I want with just a few clicks. And then I'm off to the next image. I don't compromise my time and I don't compromise my art. That's what I call a winner!

I could waste a bunch of time sitting in front of a computer, making tons of adjustments with Photoshop. I could tweak and tweak some more. But that's just not fun (at least for me it's not). Instead, I use Exposure and I'm done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Website Updates

I made some changes to my website this last weekend. Most of the changes are quite minor, but a couple are a little bigger.

The largest change is that I added a bunch of images to the Railroad gallery. I realized that there weren't nearly enough photographs there, so I dug deep through my hard drive to find some that I thought worthy enough to be included. You can see them in the slideshow at the top of this post.

I also added a couple of images to the Landscapes & Nature gallery. I came across some photographs that I had overlooked when I initially put that gallery together, so I added them.

One other difference that I'd like to point out is I changed the symbol on the tabs (which I understand doesn't work with Safari, but does seem to with other browsers). The default with a SmugMug website is a smiley face. I changed it to a photograph of mine. That's a cool little (very little) customization.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015 - Don't Dump Your Junk

Magnavox - Rosamond, California
For photographers, there is nothing worse than a beautiful landscape ruined by trash. It might be someone's fast-food bag, or it could be someone's unwanted old furniture--whatever the garbage, the great photograph is ruined by it.

Today is Earth Day, a holiday that people tend to go overboard with. Interestingly, the co-founder of Earth Day, Ira Einhorn, murdered his girlfriend and hid her body in a trunk in his closet. He's currently serving life in prison. Nowadays Earth Day is Christmas for the politically far-left.
Forgotten Cans - Mojave, California
The sad fact of the matter is that too many people are careless with their trash. They toss things into the environment with no concern.  They don't care about the consequences. And photographers, while attempting to convey the beauty of Earth, find this junk on the way of beautiful images.

So Earth Day serves as a reminder to not dump your junk out in nature. Dispose of your trash responsibly. The world is not your trashcan. I don't want to find it later. I don't want your trash to ruin my photographs.

It's a simple concept, and it is something completely politically bipartisan: throw your trash in a trashcan. Take your junk to the landfill (or donate it, if it's still in good shape). Don't be a jerk and toss it out along a highway somewhere. That's something that we can all get onboard with.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Buy My Photos!

Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
If you've ever thought about purchasing a photograph of mine, well, you can! If you're looking for photographs to hang on your home or office wall, look no further! If you need digital images for your publication, I have those, too!

Simply visit my website (roeschphotography.com). Take a look at my galleries--most of the photographs are available for purchase. Sunset At Morro Rock is found in the Landscapes & Nature gallery. My web-store is great, so go ahead and take a look.

The fact is that the photographs on my website will look great at your place. I personally recommend using the metallic paper if you order prints--it's worth the extra cost. There are plenty of other great products, as well, so be sure to check it out!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Photograph Every Day

Rock Behind Ice Plant - Morro Bay, California
This last weekend I watched a documentary called Monk With A Camera. It's about Nicholas Vreeland, who had it all and gave it away to become a Buddhist monk in Tibet. He also gave up a promising photography career, but continued to photograph non-professionally even as a monk.

The documentary was alright. Not the best or worst film I've seen. However, something in it stood out, and I thought it was a good takeaway: you should photograph every day.

I wish I had written down the exact quote (so forgive me for paraphrasing), but Nicholas Vreeland said something to the effect of, "Photography is like playing piano--you have to practice your scales every day."

Each day you need to get out with your camera if you want to improve your skills. You have to practice your metaphoric scales. You must use your gear constantly. You've got to practice, practice, practice!

If you are not improving you are regressing. If you are not regularly actively using your gear then your photography skills are receding. You are either moving forwards or backwards.

It's easy to make excuses. It's easy to let life get in the way. But you can't let obstacles get in your way. Vreeland didn't let them get in his way. You've got to move past the obstacles. You've got to set aside time every day to photograph.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Business Cards & Morro Rock

Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
I just ordered some new business cards. Since I have a new website with my own domain, I needed to have some cards printed with that information on it. Business cards are super cheap so it's no big deal to get new ones.

I had an observation after I submitted my order: these business cards and my previous business cards both featured photographs of Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California. I didn't do this on purpose. It's just the way it worked out. There must be something about the place that subconsciously attracts me.
Boat And Rock - Morro Bay, California
It's no surprise that I like Morro Bay. California's central coast is stunningly beautiful and a highly rated tourist destination. Last year I took a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway.

The photograph at the top of this post, Sunset At Morro Rock, is on my new business cards. The photograph above, Boat And Rock, which I captured on my very first trip to Morro Bay, is on my old business cards.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Changes To The Website

I've been playing around with my new website, which I completed less than a week ago, and discovered some good points and bad points about some different features. Nothing major, mostly just little things.

Originally I had the galleries set up as slideshows. I liked the simplicity of it. I appreciated that viewers didn't have to do anything--the photographs changed automatically every five seconds.

But there are a few drawbacks to the slideshow format. First, when one clicks on a photograph on the homepage, instead of taking the person straight to that image, it takes them to the slideshow (starting with the first image in the gallery, not the image that was clicked on). Second, links shared to a specific photograph (like what I did on a post on my "other" blog) takes viewers to the slideshow and not to the specific image. Finally, there's a web-store interface that's a little more user friendly that's not available with the slideshow format.

So today I changed four (of the six) galleries to a thumbnail format. I don't think it looks quite as nice or clean or simple as the slideshow format, but it doesn't have those drawbacks that I just mentioned.

One can still very easily view the galleries as a slideshow. Simply click where it says "SLIDESHOW" above the images. Or when you click on an image (it becomes larger on your screen), click the "play" arrow at the bottom-left.

I'm not 100% sure that I'm going to stick with this new look for the galleries or try something else (or perhaps go back to the slideshow format). I'll see how it goes for now.

Click here to see how I created the website and information on how you can create your very own website.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wait To Edit - Why Procrastinating Is Good When It Comes To Post-Processing

Pacific Dudes - Avila Beach, California
I waited over a month to post-process this image.
You just got back from a big trip or an epic outing, and you can't wait to go through your exposures to see what you've got. You're anxious to begin post-processing your pictures.

I have found that it is much better to wait than to edit right away. It's better to procrastinate than to post-process your photos immediately upon getting home.

A common area in photography where people struggle is self-editing. We think that all of our photographs are good. It's not until some time has passed and you're looking back at your old images that you realize that they just weren't as good as you thought they were.

Why is that? Because we have an attachment to our images. We put time, effort, thought and emotions (and potentially money) into our exposures. We have a connection to our photographs which makes us biased. We look at our own pictures through rose-colored glasses.

With time this bias fades. Our emotional connection to our exposures slowly disappears. By waiting to post-process, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to view your exposures with fresh eyes.

It's important to see your exposures with fresh eyes because that is how viewers will see your pictures. They don't have your bias. They don't know the back story (nor do they care).

With fresh eyes you are better able to delete mediocre images. You are more likely to notice which photographs you should keep and which ones you shouldn't. You self-edit more effectively.

This will save you time. You'll spend less time editing mediocre images because you'll realize that the exposure isn't worth your time. You will more easily recognize which exposures are good and which ones are not.

Besides saving time, you'll also appear to be a better photographer. You'll keep fewer forgettable photographs that you thought were good but really weren't.

How much time should you wait? It's up to you. The longer the better, but if you can hold out for at least 30 days I think that's good. There are a few photographers who are purposefully waiting an entire year.

Don't be in a rush to edit. By all means procrastinate! Waiting to post-process your photographs is beneficial because it saves you time. It also means you'll be sharing fewer mediocre images, making you look more talented.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why I Have Two Photography Blogs

Purple Thistle Blossom Macro - Stallion Springs, California
I was recently asked why I have two different photography blogs. Perhaps you have wondered this yourself. Isn't one enough?

The Roesch Photography Blog, which I started over four years ago, is a "general photography" blog. It's anything and everything related to photography.

There are literally thousands of "general photography" blogs out there on the internet. There are just so many! It's easy to get lost in the crowd. Most have a few followers and that's it.

Can you name 25 photography blogs off hand? I can't. About a dozen come to my mind. Only about half of those a "general photography" blogs. The other half are "specialty photography" blogs. They focus on a specific genre or aspect of photography.

If this blog were to become the 25th most popular "general photography" blog in the world (which it's not even close to), it would still be on the outer fringes of the photography blogging world. My name still wouldn't come to people's minds when they think of photography bloggers. I'd continue to be lost on the vast sea of "general photography" blogs. It's really difficult (and seemingly impossible) to crack that Top-10 list, which is where the relevant bloggers find themselves.

I say that my blog is irrelevant not because of content. I think that I have plenty of quality posts to be considered relevant. But the audience that this blog has is so small that it's irrelevant compared to other bloggers. There are some photography bloggers that would be highly disappointed if one of their posts "only" got the number of page-views in a day that my entire blog gets in a month.

This blog is not likely to ever become popular. There's just too much competition. There are too many other people doing the same (or similar) thing. But what if I had a blog that specializes in a certain aspect of photography? How difficult would it to become a leading blogger in a certain genre?
1956 Chevy Bel Air At Cameron's Dairy - Tehachapi, California
That's why I created The Urban Exploration Photography Blog. My favorite photography subject is abandoned places. So I decided that I'd blog about that. There are not all that many urban exploration photography bloggers out there, so it shouldn't be too difficult to reach the top in that genre. I may never become a household name in photography, but I might just become a household name in this one specialized area.

Of course none of this is about becoming popular. That's not my goal. But if I'm going to have any commercial success, I have to get the word out about my photography. I have to brand and market myself. This is one way (of many) to accomplish that.

So if this blog will never become popular but the other one might, why don't I stop blogging here and focus just on that one blog? Because I have followers here. People read what I post on this blog. The Roesch Photography Blog has steadily grown in popularity every year. It wouldn't be smart to just abandon that.

That's why I have two photography blogs--this one, the Roesch Photography Blog, and the other one, The Urban Exploration Photography Blog. For you that means twice as much content to enjoy.

Oh, and don't forget to check out my new website: roeschphotography.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Make A Fantastic Photography Website Quickly & Easily With SmugMug + Sell Your Pictures!


I just finished making a website for my photography using SmugMug, and right away I've been asked multiple times to explain how I did it. I've received tons of compliments about how great it looks and how well it is designed. Someone was surprised when I told him that I did it myself (he thought it had been created by a professional).

I'm far from savvy on these type of things. Even though I have two photography blogs, I'm only able to muddle my way through html learning as I go--I'm not a tech kind of guy at all. But setting up the website from start-to-finish was not hard and it didn't take nearly as much time as one might think. After I was finished I had to wonder why I didn't do this many months ago.

When I set out to create a website for my photography I didn't really know where to start. Several years ago I made a website using Wix, but I was dissatisfied with it. It wasn't what I was looking for and it didn't meet my needs (but it was free). I kept it for about one year and then removed it.

This time around I did some research. I asked some other photographers what they had used to create their websites and I did some web searches. SmugMug kept coming up. It wasn't free, but it did seem to meet all of my needs.

What are those needs? I wanted to upload hundreds of high-resolution images to be displayed on the website. I wanted my own domain name. I wanted something that looked really good. I wanted easy navigation. I wanted a top-notch web-store where I could effortlessly sell my images. I wanted good security so that my photographs wouldn't be stolen. I wanted it all to be simple and fast to create. And I didn't want to spend a bunch of money.

As you can imagine there are not many options available that would satisfy all of those requirements. But I did have a couple of options. I had seen several really nice websites by other photographers who had used SmugMug. What they had created for their photography was exactly what I wanted to create for my photography. So I decided to go with SmugMug, and so far that has proven to be an excellent choice.

Perhaps you are in the same shoes that I was in just a couple of weeks ago. You might be thinking about making your own photography website and you're trying to figure out the best options. Maybe you're looking into this whole SmugMug thing. Then this post is for you.

To get started with SmugMug, visit their website. If you use this link (click here) you'll receive 20% off whichever plan you choose. Who doesn't like saving money?

They have four price options: Basic ($40 per year), Power ($60 per year), Portfolio ($150 per year) and Business ($300 per year). Basic is more for personal use than business--think of it like Flickr, but better and not free. If you have no interest in a web-store (you just want a website), Power might be a good choice. The second two options are the ones that you want to consider if you plan to sell your images. Portfolio is sufficient for most people and it's the choice that I selected. Business gives you a few more pricing and marketing options, and (as the name suggests) is a good plan for those who intend to sell a lot of photographs through their website.

When you sign up, your web address will have SmugMug's name in the url (such as www.roeschphotography.smugmug.com). If you want a custom domain (such as www.roeschphotography.com) you have to go get one. I used GoDaddy for mine, but there are other options, as well. My domain costs $10 a year, and I think that is money well spent (it certainly looks more professional). Once you have a custom domain, you simply enter it into the appropriate place within the settings.

SmugMug has a number of nice-looking website templates for you to choose from. After playing around with a few of them, I went with Pixie for the simple and clean look of it. I appreciated that on the homepage the images keep coming as you scroll down, which reminds me of  how some social media sites work. You can pick which gallery will be displayed on the homepage.

The templates can be customized, and I took advantage of that. It's a little tricky at first (at least it was for me), but it's not hard once you get the hang of it. SmugMug has a great help page with lots of good information, which proved to be an invaluable resource when trying to figure out how to do different things.

It didn't take long for my website to have its own unique look. Having a website that is distinctly yours (viewers recognize immediately that it belongs to you and you alone) is important because it is similar to a trademark or logo--it's an aspect of branding. This is easily achieved with SmugMug.

I set up the galleries in a slideshow format. Since the homepage had so many images, I thought that simplicity was needed for the galleries. Once visitors open a gallery, nothing more is required since it automatically scrolls through the images. With one click the slideshow becomes full-page.

I placed important links at the top of the page. Visitors can click to this blog and my other photography blog. There's a link to my galleries. I included a search page in case there's something specific that someone's looking for. There's a "contact me" form (which wasn't immediately obvious how to set up). I also included a link to buy my photographs. It's not always apparent on SmugMug websites that one can buy photographs, so it was important to include that link right on the top of the front page. Viewers know right away that images are for sale and can access the web-store with one click.

A big reason that I made a website for my photography was to sell photographs. I needed a place to send potential customers where they could buy my images. SmugMug has a first-class store. They use some different vendors that you can choose from. I picked Bay Photo Labs because they're one of the best labs around.

You can choose what products to sell, including prints, canvas prints and digital downloads (with a use license), plus all sorts of other things. There are more options than you'll want to include. You can set the pricing to whatever you want. You can choose which galleries are for sale and which ones are not. You have a lot of control over the whole process. SmugMug keeps 15% of the profits, but they handle everything, which seems worth that 15%.

I think that how much commercial success one has with a SmugMug site depends on the quality of the photographs combined with the quantity of advertisement. In other words, if your pictures aren't good no one will buy them. If your pictures are good but if no one knows that they can buy them no one will. You have to get the word out. My webpage has been complete for less than a week, and I've already had a couple of customers.

SmugMug has included a ton of security options to help ensure that your photographs aren't stolen. You can choose which options you want to enable or disable. You can disable right-click and even include a custom right-click message. You can make galleries private, hidden and even password protected. The most security-minded photographers should be satisfied with the options SmugMug has made available to protect their photographs.

My website was online in less than two hours. It took a week of working on the website in my spare time to finish it. I probably put in eight hours total, and most of that was uploading images.

Because I used a 20% off coupon (like what you receive when you click here), the total cost was $130 ($120 for SmugMug and $10 for the custom domain). Looking at the website and how good it turned out, especially considering the great web-store, I would have expected to pay much more than that. It seems like a bargain! If you are a photographer considering your options for a website and a web-store, SmugMug is a great choice that I certainly recommend.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

My New Website: roeschphotography.com

Red Field, Green Field - Tehachapi, California
Here's the big news I've been waiting to tell you: I now have a website with my own domain! It even includes a first-class web-store. It's very nice, and you should most certainly go and take a look at it.

You'll find my brand-new website at www.roeschphotography.com (click here). I have several different galleries to view and tons and tons of photographs to see. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Your Style Is More Important Than Your Gear (Nokia Lumia 1020, Samsung NX210 & Nikon D3200)

Energy - Tehachapi, California
I'm working on an online portfolio (actually it's much more than that, and I'm hoping that I can announce it here within the next few days), and something stood out to me. My photographs look like my photographs (my family calls them "Ritchie Pictures"), no matter what gear was used to capture them.

Having your own unique style, which I call photographic vision, is much more important than gear. If you have your own unique style, no matter what gear you use your images are going to look like your images.
Surfers - Avila Beach, California
How do you develop your own unique style? It takes time and practice, but most importantly it requires vision. If you develop your vision you will simultaneously develop your own unique photographic style.

The three photographs you see in this post will be a part of the portfolio that I'm working on. They were captured using different cameras, including a Nokia Lumia 1020, Samsung NX210, and Nikon D3200. Cheap "kit" zoom lenses were used on the Samsung and Nikon cameras. I won't say which images are from which cameras, because it doesn't matter.
Imminent Change - Stallion Springs, California
This is a very tiny sampling of all of the images that will be in my online portfolios, and all sorts of other gear was used, as well. Many were captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill and a Nikon D3300 (and a prime lens was often used). There are a few images that were captured using a FED 5c Russian rangefinder and film.

My point is that they all look like my photographs. Zoom lens or prime? Cheap camera or expensive? Digital or film? It doesn't matter. They all fit in with each other and you wouldn't know the difference unless I told you.

Worry more about what's important in photography and less about what's not. Don't have camera envy. Use what you have to the best of your ability and you'll realize that cameras don't matter nearly as much as you've been told.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Notes & Thoughts

Purple Beretta - Tehachapi, California
1. If you haven't visited my "other" photography blog (The Urban Exploration Photography Blog) in a while, you are missing out on some great content. The photograph at the top is just one example of something you've missed. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

2. I recently made a couple of big enlargements from images that I had captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill. The sharpness and fine details were amazing. Sometimes I miss that camera.

3. It's better to spend money on trips than gear. I've been able to take a couple of quick getaways already this year (such as a coastal visit), and I have a couple more trips in the works. I considered purchasing a new camera or (especially) lens, but instead used the money to travel. I'm so glad that I didn't buy the gear.

4. I've been able to take some trips down memory lane recently. It's amazing how far my photography has come, but I'm also surprised that a few of my older images were not bad at all. I need to get some slides scanned so that I can share them here.

5. I have a big announcement coming very soon. I'm hoping to announce it within the next week. So stay tuned!

Friday, April 3, 2015

My Camera Settings - Nikon D3300 DSLR

Little, Big - San Luis Obispo, California
1/80, f4.5, ISO 3200, Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens
I've had a few different discussions recently with people about what camera settings I use on my Nikon D3300 DSLR. I thought it might be worthwhile to share them here. Perhaps this will be useful to someone.

Now I've been asked many times before about camera settings. This is not new. In fact, almost two years ago I published a post entitled Camera Settings Don't Matter. In that post I said:
"The only thing important about camera settings is knowing what they do. You cannot control the outcome of your photographs if you don't know how to control your camera. You must learn the basics. Beyond that, though, it doesn't make any difference whatsoever what settings someone used to create an image. The photograph matters, the way it was achieved doesn't."
I don't want anyone to use certain camera settings simply because that's how I have them set. You should choose the settings that are most appropriate for whatever it is you are trying to photographically accomplish. This is called photographic vision.
Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
1/125, f8, ISO 100, Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens
With all of that said, here's what I use 90% of the time: aperture priority mode, auto ISO (with 1/125 as the minimum shutter speed and ISO 3200 as the maximum ISO), auto-white-balance, auto-focus (auto-area and auto-focus-automatic), matrix metering, +0.3 exposure compensation, Active D-Lighting and auto distortion correction enabled, standard color, saved in RAW.

If I want a large depth-of-field, I use a small aperture life f11. If I want a shallow depth-of-field, I use a large aperture like f2.8. Beyond that, I let the camera do the work. Nikon has done an excellent job with auto-features on this camera.

Occasionally those settings don't work, and so I dig through the menus and adjust them. Sometimes I use shutter priority mode or even manual mode. It all depends on the image. It's important to understand what everything does and how everything should be set to achieve what you want.
Pacific Dudes - Avila Beach, California
1/250, f10, ISO 100, Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens 
I never use the scene modes. I never set the camera to be fully automatic. The #1 thing I want control over is the aperture, which affects depth-of-field and sharpness. Because I've set up auto-ISO, the camera will keep the shutter speed and ISO within the parameters that I've given it. Because I save in RAW format, white-balance doesn't matter (same with the color).

The JPEGs from the camera are good, but I save in RAW because the software that I use also does RAW conversion. It's the same number of steps and the saw amount of time to post-process a RAW file as a JPEG, so it would be silly to not take advantage of that. If extra steps were required to use RAW, I'd just have the camera save the images as JPEGs.

The most common settings that I adjust (besides aperture) are exposure compensation (when the light meter doesn't get the exposure right) and auto-focus (when the camera doesn't automatically focus where I want it to). Less common adjustments are to the shutter speed and ISO, which (typically) requires a mode other than aperture priority (such as shutter priority or manual). Every once in a while I'll use "live view" or shoot a panorama.

And that's it! Those are the settings that I use on my Nikon D3300. Simple enough, right? Hopefully you'll find the settings that work best for you and the images that you are trying to create.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Controversy: The Religious Rights of Photographers


One year ago I published a post entitled Controversy: Do You Have The Right To Refuse Photographic Service? In that post I said:
"Two photographers in New Mexico, a husband and wife team, turned down a request to photograph a lesbian couple's 'commitment ceremony' due to conflicts with their religious beliefs. Some time later the lesbian couple sued the photographers and won.
"The photographers appealed the decision all the way to New Mexico's Supreme Court, and they still lost. One justice wrote that the photographers must compromise their religious beliefs as 'the price of citizenship.'"
It might be worth your time to reread that post, because I said a lot more than what is quoted above. But I wanted to bring this back up in light of the controversy in Indiana and some other states.

Indiana passed a state law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some took as being discriminatory. Never mind that an identical law exists at the federal level, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

The law (both the state law and the federal law, in fact), in essence, protects businesses and individuals from being compelled (forced) by the government to do something that violates their religious beliefs.
Stallion Springs Community Church - Stallion Springs, California
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America starts out, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But what's interesting is James Madison's original proposed wording of that. Madison wrote, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience by in any manner, or on any pretext infringed."

James Madison's original text is important because it shows the intended meaning of the shorter text that was later adapted. Bill Clinton reaffirmed that original intent by signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 (it was passed almost unanimously by both the house and senate). Clinton said, "We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties--religious freedom." He added, "The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom--that which originally sparked the full range of the Bill of Rights."

What does this all have to do with two photographers in New Mexico? The federal law only applies to the federal government. The federal government cannot force those two photographers to do something that violates their religion. Their civil liberties are protected. However, state governments are not bound by this law. To provide the same religious civil liberties, states must have similar laws or wording in their state constitutions. Indiana became one of about 20 states to put a law in the books ensuring that the rights of religious people are not infringed.

If you are a photographer and you are religious, it is in your interest to know if the state you live in (or do business in) has a law like Indiana. If not, you could end up like those two photographers in New Mexico: shut down by the state.
The Desert Cross - Mojave, California
Interestingly enough, New Mexico is one of the states with a similar law. So how is it, then, that the photographers in New Mexico are compelled by the state to compromise their religious beliefs? Why didn't New Mexico's law protect the religious liberties of those two photographers? Because New Mexico's law is more limited in scope (softer) than Indiana's law (or even the federal law).

I want to make it clear: I'm not suggesting that anyone discriminate against anyone. I'm not "homophobic" or prejudice, so don't even go there. This is not about me. I know there are some boiling with anger over what I just wrote. Just calm down.

Laws that protect the civil liberties of religious people are not infringing on the civil liberties of others. Those suggesting that have not logically considered this matter enough. Nowhere in the Constitution is one given the right to force another to do something that they believe is against their religious convictions.

The Indiana (and federal) law can be best metaphorically described as a shield and not a sword. The law is designed to protect, and it does not give anyone the right to harm. If someone is "harmed" by the law (such as a photographer refusing to provide someone a service due to religious reasons), it is only because the "victim" was attempting to violate the religious liberties of another. This would be the "flip side" of the coin.
Two White Crosses - Rosamond, California
Whichever side of the coin you want to view, what the law (both state and federal) actually does is allow a defense in court. And that's it. The law can be put this way: Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion. It must be proven in court that the burden is substantial or not. It's not some kind of free-for-all. It doesn't allow for racism, sexism or any other kind of "ism". It is a defense in court meant to protect the civil liberties of religious people against a substantial burden to the exercise of their religion. You know, that "first" and "most precious" of civil liberties (as Bill Clinton put it). That civil liberty that some seem to forget exists (or wish didn't exist).

So a lot of what's been said about the Indiana law simply isn't true. A lot has been exaggerated, or told out of context. It's not anything to be upset about.

For photographers, the law is good. Without the law you do not have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. If someone asks you to photograph something, no matter how much you may disagree with it, and no matter how much it may be a violation of your religious views, you have to do it. If you refuse, someone may sue you and the government may compel you to do it (or put you out of business if you still refuse). And you never know what someone may ask you to photograph. Think beyond homosexual weddings (which was the New Mexico example). Certainly there are people with ideas that are way out there--ideas that you may have moral objections to.

I'm hoping that more states adopt laws similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I would certainly hate to find myself in a situation similar to those two photographers in New Mexico.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Google Adsense Stinks

Nobody pays me to write the Roesch Photography Blog (and also The Urban Exploration Photography Blog). There are many reasons that I do this. I feel that it is important to "give back" to the photography continuum. This is good advertisement space--people "discover" me through this blog and occasionally buy my images. I'm branding myself in a way.

One reason that I do this is for money. My time is precious and I appreciate a little monetary compensation for all that I put into this. That's why you see a few small ads on the page.

Those advertisements are put there by Google. They call it Adsense. I agree to allow them to place ads on my blog (they give me a little control over it), and in return I get a small amount of revenue from the ads. And I mean small.

What's frustrating about Google Adsense is they tell you that you've earned a certain amount in revenue, but then at the end of the month they "finalize" the earnings, and the two figures are really far apart. Each month it is different, but it seems as though the "best" I've gotten is 50% of the ad money that they initially said I'd earned. This last month it was closer to 10%.

It's crazy that the projected earnings and the finalized earnings are so different. Obviously there is something wrong with whatever matrix they're using to guess the amount that you've earned. Or they're ripping bloggers like me off. Or both. It stinks, whatever the issue is.

Still, I'm not ready to give up on Adsense. I like the idea of getting some sort of financial compensation for the time I put into this blog. But I'm quite frustrated by it. The time may be coming soon to stop allowing Google to earn money from my intellectual property. I appreciate the space they give me to have a blog, but I'm far from happy with Adsense.