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Vision Vision starts with personal taste. It starts with a conscious awareness of what you like and don’t like. One of the first exercises you can do is make a list of what you like and don’t like in photography and which photographers you like and dislike. Vision is about …

Fine Art Top 15

The most important aspect of photography is not the gear you own or the techniques you use. The most important aspect of photography is light.

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Monument Valley Avant Garde: How it was done

June 15, 2013 Art, Technique, Workshops 3 Comments

Monument Valley Avant Garde

I make it my challenge to photograph well known locations – icons as some people call them – in a new way. This is one of the reasons behind the ‘avant garde’ part of the title.  While I also photograph little known locations, I find it inspirational to photograph locations that are well known.  The challenge of seeing a location photographed by many with fresh eyes is a challenge that gives me motivation to create images that have not been done before, images that fit within a tradition while at the same time challenging this tradition.  The rebellious spirit that motivates this approach is part of my work.  It is assotiated with a focus on form and color, both of which are modified at will to fit my vision.

We visit this location during our Navajoland Workshop.  Here is next year’s Workshop description:

Best regards,

Alain Briot


Six Remarks on Composition

No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it,
is sure of his method and composition.

Claude Monet

Composition is an important aspect of good photographs. I have written about it at length in my books and my essays, and I continue to do so.  Here I want to offer some remarks about composition that I wrote recently.  These are not organized the way my essays or book chapters are.  Instead, they are simply numbered and they are not necessarily related to each other.  Read it as a loose list of items written as they crossed my mind and that I wanted to share.

1 – About Photographers
A great photographer has, above everything else, a great eye.  Camera gear is important but secondary. Great photographs are the result of acute seeing abilities.  If anything, the best gear is the one that frees the photographer from thinking about technique and lets him or her free to concentrate on seeing.

In landscape photography the photographer must be able to follow changes in the light, the weather, the clouds, the shadows, etc. as they happen.  This means being able to shoot continuously while exposing, focusing and completing other technical tasks accurately.  Only then can the photographer follow his inspiration and work his way through the multiple opportunities offered by the subject, the light and the weather.

Blue Mesa Cottonwoods
Horizontal composition

Sometimes trying both vertical and horizontal compositions of the same scene can lead fruitful results, as in this photograph of a row of cottonwood trees in fall colors set against a shaded mesa.  The horizontal composition allowed me to fit more trees in the foreground than I could in the vertical composition, resulting in an image that has more ‘breath’ and spaciousness than the vertical composition. The tree that is the ‘hero’ of the vertical composition is only one of the characters in the horizontal composition, further adding variety and interest to what is my favorite of these two images.

Blue Mesa Cottonwoods
Vertical composition

2 – About Upgrading Gear
It takes time to get used to new equipment, software and other tools.  Doing so is not automatic.  Even though there are many tutorials available, we need to practice in order to get used to new gear.  This can take weeks, months or even years.

If you constantly change your gear you never become fully familiar with it. You may also miss some new and important features.  You have to work with tools for a while before you become fully conversant with them. You have to ‘make friends’ with your tools before you can become intimately familiar with them.

This is what mastery is all about.  Mastery is not only knowing what to do or how to do it.  Mastery is also, and primarily, knowing why and when to do something.  Mastery is focusing on the why, on the motive, instead of the what, the technique.  When one seeks mastery one is no longer concerned with not knowing how to do something. Instead, one is concerned with knowing why something needs to be done. Mastery is using specific tools for specific reasons, not just using tools because they are ‘new’ or ‘better.’

Mastery is often counterintuitive.  It often goes against common sense or has an iconoclastic side to it. There is often a unique or unexpected aspect to the choices made by masterful practitioners.  However, a common characteristic of the masters is that they can explain clearly and convincingly why they made specific choices.  In other words their choices are not accidental. Rather, they are deliberate, thought-out decisions made for specific reasons.

In art, these specific reasons are  related to the desire to express a personal vision.  The goal is to make this vision visible to all instead of keeping it in our mind. The goal is to use gear and tools to make our vision a reality that everyone can see.  The goal is to make what is in our mind’s eye visible in our photographs.  The true artist falls in love with his vision.

3 – Processes and variety
Using a variety of processes is nice, but variety of vision is more important than variety of techniques.

So what if the techniques you use are always the same? As long as they serve the needs of your images well, what need is there for more? In the darkroom we used nearly always the same processes and techniques. Variations were introduced only when dealing with recalcitrant images. The process was otherwise standard.

What changed was our vision for each image,   The processing variations introduced as we went from one photograph to the next consisted of altering the process slightly for each image to make the images match our vision.  For example what changed was how long we exposed the paper, or how long we developed the image, or the timing of some other aspect of the process.  What did not change much at all was the process we used to go from vision to final print. That process, for all intended purposes, was pretty much standard.

Today there seems to be a focus, indeed an obsession at times, with using new techniques.  While refining the process and introducing changes is important, what we are talking about here is something quite different.

What we are talking about here is change for change’s sake, not change for vision’s sake.  The changes we see today do not necessarily make the process better. What they do essentially is make the process different.  More often than not they do not bring significant improvements.  In fact, occasionally they bring a degradation of image quality.

Using different techniques because of novelty alone is therefore something to watch out for. Just like new cameras do not necessarily mean better images, new digital techniques do not necessarily mean better master files or better prints.

As is often the case in art, the artist and the artist’s vision are what needs to be improved and worked on. The artist’s tools, for the most part, are rarely the issue.  Most artists have tools, or software, whose capabilities far exceeds their vision.  It is depth of vision that is most deserving of our attention.

4 – About printing
From a technical standpoint raw captures are characterized by being low contrast, low saturation and somewhat blurry.  Starting from a low contrast,  low saturation and blurry original file requires having a vision for the final image.  The original raw file alone cannot act as guide.  The  final image has to exist first in the mind of the artist, second in the final optimized file and third in the fine art print.

The ability to translate what one sees in his mind onto a piece of paper is directly related to the artistic and technical virtuosity of the photographer. Achieving a fine art print involves much more than moving sliders and adjusting “things” in LR3 or other software!

Zabriskie Point Sunrise #1

In this second example the difference between the two photographs is essentially the amount of sky present in each of them.  The photograph above has less sky than the one below.  However, it is my favorite of the two.   I spent a long time deciding why until I realized that including more sky took my attention away from looking at the badland formations in the foreground. By including a lot of sky, the photograph became primarily about the sky.  By including less sky, the photograph is both about the sky and the land.  The outcome is a more balanced photograph, one that is more pleasing to look at in my opinion.

Zabriskie Point Sunrise #2

5 – About field work –
When I get to a location that I want to photograph I do not unpack my camera gear right away.  Instead, I put my bag and tripod down and spend a good amount of time looking at the landscape, taking in it, studying the colors and considering different compositional possibilities.  Before taking photographs I first want to view the scene without a camera.

This is because I hardly ever find the strongest composition right away.  Instead, I find compositions that I like by walking the scene, by stopping to study the possibilities offered by different viewpoints and at times by stopping and letting the scene ‘soak in’ so to speak.  I do this until I see a specific angle that I find particularly inspiring.  Only then do I unpack my gear and set up my camera and tripod.  Because of experience and familiarity with my gear, doing so takes only a minute or so.  I can’t remember an instance in which I lost a shot because I waited to set up my gear.

I follow this process because I like to keep the possibility open that there may be an image here.  At the same time I also want to keep the possibility open that there may not be an image here. Therefore, to find out which of these two possibilities is true, I wait patiently until the image reveals itself to me, or not, as the case might be. There isn’t always a photograph in a location, not matter how promising it may be.

6 – Creating simple images is not simple
The most simple images are often the most effective images. However, creating simple images is not necessarily a simple process.  To be able to simplify a composition one must have acquired a variety of ‘visual reflexes.’  These ‘visual reflexes’ consist of things that one does automatically, without thinking, because these things have been practiced so many times that they have become intuitive.

Sometimes this means proceeding quickly through the construction of the image, and sometimes it means proceeding slowly and moving through each step carefully.  Sometimes it means using finesse, and sometimes it means moving forward intuitively.

It may also mean finding out what is the weak area of an image and looking for ways to strengthen it.  Or it may mean having the patience necessary to wait until everything comes together, until the light and the subject are balanced and become equally interesting.

Sometimes it means letting things be, for example letting objects fall where they may without worrying if they are in the right place or not.  On the other hand sometimes it means controlling the position of each element until everything looks right.

Sometimes it means taking one photo after another while fine tuning the composition, until the perfect image is found.  Sometimes it means working quickly, knowing that there will only be enough time to take one photograph, two at the most, because the light is changing very quickly and there is no time to waste.

Sometimes it mean finding ways of making the subject come alive.  Sometimes it means letting the subject speak for itself.

About Alain Briot
Alain Briot creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers DVD tutorials on composition, image conversion, optimization, printing and marketing. Alain is the author of Mastering Landscape Photography. Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available on as printed books Amazon.com and as eBooks on Alain’s website at this link: http://beautiful-landscape.com/Ebooks-Books-1-2-3.html

You can find more information about Alain’s work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to Alain’s Free Monthly Newsletter on his website at http://www.beautiful-landscape.com To subscribe simply go to http://www.beautiful-landscape.com and click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page. You will receive information on downloading the table of contents, plus over 40 free essays by Alain, immediately after subscribing. Alain welcomes your comments on this essay as well as on his other essays available. You can reach Alain directly by emailing him at alain@beautiful-landscape.com.

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona


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Sunrise, Joshua Tree NP: How it was done

June 14, 2013 Art, Technique No Comments

Sunrise, Joshua Tree National Park, California

The photograph above was taken during our Joshua Tree workshop this May. It is a single capture. Because of the dynamic range of the Phase One back that I use, and because of my processing technique, I was able to get details both in the shadows and highlights.

I initially wanted to do this image as a silhouette, the way I did in my previous visit to Joshua tree, but when I started processing the image I realized that the feeling of dawn breaking over the horizon would best be expressed by having some details in the shadows. Not a lot, but some, enough to give the feeling that night is breaking away, that we are starting to see into the shadows and that light is slowly filling the landscape, pushing away the cover of darkness and revealing details that could not be seen previously. I also want to express the feeling of warmth and color that comes with a late spring sunrise, as well as the transition between day and night.

This is why I made the top of the image a deep blue, dark enough to give the feeling of night breaking away, but not so dark that we feel it isn’t dawn yet. That’s also why I gave the lower portion of the sky, the part over the horizon, a yellow/pink/orange glow, to both echo the color of the sun rays and to contrast with the deep blue of the sky above. Color is very important in my work, and control of color is one of the aspects of digital processing that I enjoy the most and that I have learned to master over the many years I have been practicing photography.

Alain Briot

How to add Alain Briot to Google+ circles

June 4, 2013 Success, Technique No Comments

Simply click on the ‘add to circle’ button on my Google + Page at this link

Alain Briot


Where can you read my books and essays ?

Where my work is published



Michael Reichmann has published my essays on his site since 1999.   My Monthly column on Luminous-Landscape.com is titled Briot’s View.

You can read all my Briot’s View essays — over 40 of them — at this link:


NPN – NaturePhotographers.net

I also have a monthly column on NPN, Nature Photographers.net.

My author’s page on NPN is at this link:



And here is my May 2013 essay:



LPM – LandscapePhotographyMagazine.com

I have a Monthly Essay Series on LandscapePhotographyMagazine.comHere is my Author’s Page on LPM :



My April 2013 essay:



And my May 2013 essay:




I publish a Monthly column on Foto4All

The May 2013 issue features an interview of myself by Cristina Tinta:



Here is the April 2013 Issue:



The other issues are linked to from the magazine’s home page:




My books are available on Amazon and many other bookstores.

Here is my Author’s page on Amazon.com where all my books are listed:




All my books and essay collections are available as eBooks.  The eBooks are only available on my website at:



My Web Site

I publish essays regularly on my website.  Here is the Link to my essays page:



This blog

And of course, you can write my writings regularly on this blog:



Thank you for your interest in my work.

Alain Briot

HDR in 2013

May 11, 2013 Art, Technique 1 Comment

HDR in 2013 by Ned Radan


High Dynamic Range (HDR) images are very popular discussion in photographic books and magazines. It is also a very old procedure almost old as photography. Nowadays with availability of digital cameras and image editing software, this technique is very commonly used by photographers. For successful use of the procedure, a common sense is essential. Difficulty level is from very easy (dodging and burning in Photoshop) to hard (combining an image of the sky through branches on an image intended for large print photograph).

The first photographer to use this technique was Gustave Le Gray in his images shown in London in 1856. At the time negatives were more sensitive to blue light then to red and green. As a result, the sky would be rendered in white and subjects on earth in shades of grey. So he exposed one photograph for sky and the second one for subjects on the ground. When making prints two negatives were masked. One was used for sky and the other one for the ground.

Visible light, that’s what we see, can be rendered with camera with ability to capture Dynamic Range of 30 f stops. Nowadays, cameras can capture roughly 5-10 f stops in one image depending of the sophistication of a camera. As a result, a camera can capture only a window of the visible light in one single image. The intent of HDR technique is to widen this window. In simple words burned highlights and unexposed shadows in an image need to be revealed.

When to Use It
Use of HDR technique is to be avoided unless it is necessary. For example, at noon on a sunny day shadows are harsh. That means a part of rock facing the sun and part of the same rock in the shade will have different intensity of light. This difference can be several f stops. In order to photograph this subject one would need to adjust exposure for sunny side of the rock and the second exposure for the part in shade. In the office these two exposures would be combined using image editing software to create one image. The better option would be to come at the location early in the morning or late in the evening and photograph the same subject. This time only one exposure is needed because the light does not create harsh shadows.

To conclude, in some instances choosing appropriate lighting conditions gives better results than applying the HDR technique.

HDR technique is a tool available to a photographer in creating a desired image. As mentioned earlier it is to the photographer‘s common sense to decide to use it or not. Some other procedures one can use instead or in combination with HDR technique:

  • Chose appropriate lighting condition. Come on the location at the dusk or down when shadows are soft.
  • Acquire an advanced camera which wider dynamic range.
  • Use artificial light (flash) or reflector to lighten the detail in the shade.

Depending on your subject and type of photography, the photographer chooses the appropriate approach.

Revealing Highlights
In some cases we can avoid HDR procedure by choosing appropriate lighting conditions, but in others this is the only way we can present a subject. For example, at sunset and sunrise sky gets spectrum of warm colors. In order to catch warm colored sky and the ground, it is necessary to use HDR technique. So take one shot for sky and the other for the ground and then combine them in an image editing software. The image (Figure 1) shows sunset, where I could not avoid HDR technique.

Illustration 1 neil radan
Figure 1: Zion Sunset

Revealing Shadows
When subject with lot of shadows is photographed, some shadows lose detail and become plain black. The best way to render such subject is to photograph it in optimal lighting condition. Sometimes we can’t camp on location, drive late in the evening or can’t afford camera with high dynamic range, so remedy is to use HDR procedure. In Figure 2 is shown example of such situation.

Illustration 2 neil radan
Figure 2: Sands of Time

How To
The simplest way to combine two images in photo editing software is to use eraser. Load up the image with most of the detail on the top layer. In the bottom layer load up an image adjusted for shadows or highlights, which ever you want to reveal on the top layer image. Make your top layer active and choose eraser soft brush with opacity 5-10%. Now go over area which you want revealed a few times. When you are happy with outcome flatten the image.

This is not the best way to combine images, but it will get you going in no time.

HDR procedure is a tool in the tool box of a photographer. At the end of the day is personal preference to use it or not and when to use it. The most important aspect is your imagination.

Alain Briot, “Mastering Landscape Photography”
Beaumont NewHall, “The History of Photography”
Michael Freeman, “Pro Photographer’s D-SLR Handbook”

Neil Radan
May 2013


About Adobe’s cloud-only software delivery policy

May 9, 2013 Art, Technique 2 Comments

About Adobe’s cloud-only software delivery policy

Adobe’s ‘creative cloud only’ announcement – the news that Adobe software will be available only as cloud-based subscription service instead of as traditional software packages one owns and installs on their computers-  came as a shock to most photographers who use Photoshop.

I received lots of questions about how the ‘cloud’ works and what one should do. Here are my thoughts and recommendations:

1 – Upgrade to CS6. It’s a very good upgrade and who knows it may be the last opportunity to buy Photoshop that you can keep on your computer! I have it and I’ll keep it!

2 – I have a feeling Adobe will be forced to offer an alternative to the cloud. There’s multiple reasons why, one of them being the requirement to have online access to process images in PS. What if you don’t have online access for whatever reason? No photoshop possible?

3 – What about opening photos that you created a long time ago? Impossible unless you are a cloud subscriber. This means you have to pay the monthly fee, even if you don’t need photoshop, just to open your photos? That’s not right.  Of course we can convert psd files to tiffs or other format, but when your photo library features several hundred thousand images, as mine does, that’s easier said than done!

4 –  Here is the ‘official information’ from Adobe:


and also here:


Please post your comments below.

Alain Briot

Is the new Advanced Marketing DVD relevant outside of the USA?

Is the new Advanced Marketing DVD relevant outside of the USA?

1 – Introduction
I have a lot of students who live outside of the USA or overseas.  Understandably if you are in this situation you want to know if the contents of the new Advanced Marketing Mastery Workshop on DVD will be usable in your country.   You may also have spent a lot of money previously on marketing materials that have not worked as well as you expected them.  Again, you want to know if the Advanced Marketing Mastery DVD will be worth spending your hard earned money on.  These are important questions, and the answers are below:

2 – Can I use the information on the Advanced Marketing DVD to sell fine art photographs outside of the United States?
Yes, the new Advanced Marketing Mastery Workshop on DVD is totally relevant to selling fine art photographs in countries other than the United States.  In fact, I have students from all over the world using my Fine Art Marketing DVD, not just in the US, and they are doing very well with the information featured in it.

My marketing approach is based on my knowledge of why people buy fine art photographs.  I explain this in detail in the Advanced Marketing DVD.  I have sold photographs successfully since 1997, not just in the US but all over the world, because I sold at the Grand Canyon where over half of the visitors are international tourists, and because I sell on my website where again over half of my customers are international collectors. This gave me the required experience to teach you how to sell your fine art photographs successfully regardless where you live in the world.

3 – I purchased too many Marketing Systems that did not work for me and I am careful now.  Why will yours work while others did not?
There are a lot of marketing tutorials available on the Internet and elsewhere.  However, to my knowledge,none of them teaches you how to sell fine art photographs.  Many teach you how to sell portraits, weddings, pets, children, babies, studio and other type of commercial photographs, but none focus on fine art photographs the way I do in my Fine Art Photography Marketing DVDs

Selling fine art photographs requires a very specific approach.  People do not purchase fine art photographs for home and office decor for the same reason they purchase photographs of their loved ones such as portraits, wedding, children, etc.  I explain what the differences are in the Advanced Marketing DVD.

For example, how many of these marketing ‘experts’ teach you how to create limited editions? Not just put a number on a photo, but structuring an edition according to a specific marketing system, in several categories, and with a sliding price structure?  To my knowledge I am the only one to teach this extremely important aspect of fine art photography.

How many teach you how to measure your level of leverage and how to use this  leverage? Or, even simpler than that, how many teach you what leverage is in fine art photography?  Knowing how to structure an edition according to your level of leverage is one of the most effective ways of increasing your income.

Also, how many teach you how to create a website where you will sell your photographs successfully, together with do’s and don’t, what you need to have and what you should never use?

And, what about teaching you how to handle stalls and objections from customers?  Customers have more objections than ever before since the recession started.  If you don’t know how to answer them, you will miss a huge number of sales!

What about teaching you how to do a pre-close, how to do a close, how to qualify customers?  All this is brushed aside most of the time, if not totally ignored by the ‘gurus’ out there and when it is addressed it is not done in the context of selling fine art photographs.  I teach you how to do all this in the Advanced Marketing Mastery DVD.

People have different objections when purchasing fine art photographs than when purchasing portrait and wedding photographs! In the new Advanced Marketing DVD I give you the exact objections customers have, together with the exact answers to give them, all this based on my 16 years of experience selling fine art photographs. There is hardly any situation I have not encountered and answered successfully, and on the Advanced Marketing DVD I give you all the answers so you can be successful too.

The price of the new Advanced Marketing Fine Art Photography Mastery Workshop on DVD will go up after the pre-order period is over. Shipping is free. We ship via USPS and declare a low value so you don’t have to pay import tax.

Limited Time Special Offer
Do you want to place your order now? We have a limited time special offer: Here is the link:


But do hurry because this offer is strictly limited to 25 orders! Don’t delay, order right now!

Best regards,

Alain Briot

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