Instead of focusing on something technical like ISO or aperture, today I want to talk a little more broadly about how to make yourself look like the best shooter possible; a sort of do's and don'ts of how to present your images. Presentation can be considered a number of different things but these ideals hold true no matter the format: Instagram, Facebook, twitter, website, portfolio, etc. The best photographers constantly miss focus, composition, and exposure, but if you look at what they release online, you would never know that, and it's because they are following some of these steps below. In before any backlash, I've done nearly every single one of these 'don'ts,' and it won't take long to pull up examples from my instagram feed.
...post images that are out of focus. No matter how good of a moment you believe you've captured, make sure to zoom in 1:1 and the image remains tack sharp on the subject's eye. Unfortunately, if it doesn't it's not useable and only undermines your overall portfolio. A professional looking over your work will immediately spot "soft" images, while the general public will often just not gravitate to the image because it looks amateur.
...post images that show bad movement patterns or positions, or show people in a less than positive light. Yes, human beings, and competitive exercisers will often find themselves in horrendous positions during training and especially during competitions, but that doesn't mean you need to highlight that moment online. Catching a snatch or clean on a knee might have been a "heroic" movement at local event, but highlighting it further encourages bad technique that can result in injuries. Don't highlight images that could potentially embarrass an athlete. Whether a nip slip, an ugly fail, or a little gut sticking out: it might be perfectly exposed, but there's a real person in that photo that might not want you to be broadcasting that.
...edit your images (whether in Lightroom, Photoshop, or an app) so heavily that the subjects are nearly unrecognizable or appear made of some type of stone or rubber. Yes, artistic expression is amazing, and everyone has their own particularly taste, but just because a slider goes to +100 does not mean it needs to be utilized every time. The two biggest sliders to use with caution with are Clarity and Noise Reduction. If an image is not impressive without hours of post processing, it may just not be that good of an image in the first place. You have to be honest with the content you produce and whether you think it's good, or it's just a photoshop monstrosity.
...post images with bizarre crops and amputations. Have a great shot but half of the head of the main subject is cut off? It's not that great of a shot. This is focusing on composition. This rule holds true with hands and feet especially: if an image is framed as a head to toe hero shot of someone hitting the big lift, but the right foot is cut in half, it damages the quality of the image. Hands are the same way: someone grasping a barbell but half of their fingers are cut by the edge of the frame is inherently "painful" to look at. Of course, this is hugely contested and sometimes a little chopped foot here or missing hand there won't damage an image, but for the most part, this is a rule to live by.
...watermark your images so heavily that the main subject just looks like a footnote to your brand name. I understand the idea behind watermarking. Most look at it as a way to ensure their images will not get "stolen," but anyone with an amateurish knowledge of photoshop can easily clone brush it out. If someone actively wants to "steal" your image, they will. You should accept that nearly all content you post to the internet will end up somewhere you probably don't want it, and you can drive yourself insane trying to regulate that. I obviously use a watermark on all my Facebook and Instagram posts, but am not doing that to prevent theft, but instead to help promote my work with some built in branding. If I'm lucky enough to have my images shared, reposted, or reused, it benefits me for others to know where that photo came from, without completely blanketing the image in a monstrous watermark. I will always customize to fit the image in both size, proportion, and opacity (easily controlled in Lightroom).
...capture the critical moment, or the start/finish of a movement. Especially on fast movements, we all get a little trigger happy and may fire off 10 frames. The professional skims all these frames and only selects that critical moment - the transition on the muscle up, full extension on the snatch, or the bottom position of a squat. Likewise - imagery of the start of finish of the movement is just as clean: standing tall with a bar over head, locked out in a dip, or setup on a tireflip. What's to be avoided is that grey area in between: awkward moments from that start to finish or leading into that critical moment. The easiest test to see if something is in one of those "between moments" is, if you had no context for this image, would you understand what is going on? Can you understand if the bar is going up or down? Is the athlete jumping or landing? Standing still or moving? If an image doesn't convey that sort of context without a caption, you're missing that critical moment.
...highlight people's achievements and successes, capture emotions. The strongest images are always those that we can empathize with. Being able to feel what people felt (and that's not always a celebration) in a scene helps make the image resonate with the viewer. One of my consistently most popular images on social media is a shot from CrossFit Dynamix when Michelle Kercado hit a 235 squat clean PR. She's surrounded by her friends and team cheering and screaming. One glance at that image and you know how loud that room was, you know the excitement, and you know that lift was important. Now, you could have someone hitting a huge PR on a lift, but without a background of people cheering, or the athlete showing real energy, that might not really make for much of an image at all. If you find yourself shooting events often, great moments to keep an eye on for these sorts of "emotional explosions" are the finish of an event, or the last person to finish an event. Often times, the largest celebration always come when the circle forms around the last athlete on the floor as they work through their final reps. An important note here: a PR is a PR. The celebration of I've seen from someone hitting their first double under was far greater than Rich Froning hitting a 305 snatch at the 2014 CrossFit Invitational. Remember it's all relative here, a scaled athlete hitting a 135lb clean might be a years-long accomplishment - don't miss it because it's someone else's warmup weight.
...not care if your image violates every rule listed here and elsewhere on the internet. If you think what you have is good, you should ignore everyone and follow that vision.
Make sure to tune into superclearyphoto.com for our holiday sale - 20% off all images with code 'xmas20'. My goal is to finally keep up with this blog and try to make this a semi-weekly column. Please feel free to post some content suggestions below so I know what you're looking for. And as always, follow @supercleary on instagram and SuperClearyPhoto on Facebook.