Creating Beautiful Photos With Strangers Across the Internet

Creating Beautiful Photos With Strangers Across the Internet

I live in a small city far from popular landscape photography locations and seemingly devoid of fellow photographers. I oftentimes find myself feeling a bit alone in the creative process. To remedy this, I went online to find peers and look for resources to get constructive feedback on my work. I ended up meeting someone who helped me improve my work and whose generosity took me completely by surprise.

Rex Jones recently wrote a great article here at Fstoppers that really touches on all the benefits of working with others in the field. I highly recommend checking it out. There are quite a few resources and communities online to discuss, collaborate, and get feedback about your photography. The community section right here on Fstoppers is a great example. Another example is Instagram or any photo-sharing app for that matter. I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram for many reasons, but the story I’m about to tell you is one reason to love the platform. It all started when I was browsing Reddit one day and stumbled upon a beautiful Aurora shot taken by Evan Campbell, who was a complete stranger to me at the time. 

Vortex.

A post shared by Evan Campbell (@evncmpbell) on

I commented on his photo and soon after that, we followed each other on Instagram. A few days passed and I was browsing through some photos I took from last summer when I had the opportunity to travel to Iceland. I’ve had this photo of Skogafoss that I felt had a lot of potential, but I couldn’t ever decide how I wanted to edit it. 
 

raw image of skogafoss from camera

Flat image straight out of camera

It was at that moment that I knew what I wanted to do, or at least try to do with the photo. I was inspired by Evan’s vibrant aurora shots and felt that using a shot of the aurora would work perfect with all the green tones already in my photo. The only problem was that I was not fortunate enough to have taken any aurora photos on my trip considering I was there during the summer. I contemplated purchasing a stock aurora photo but was weary considering I had no idea if the edit would even work. My excitement faded and I put the Skogafoss photo back in the “has potential” section of my library.

The next day, while browsing Instagram, Evan posted another shot from the night he captured the aurora in Lofoten, Norway. It was exactly the kind of shot I wanted to use in my composite of Skogafoss and I felt a rush of excitement all over again. I took a leap of faith and reached out to Evan to explain to him my idea in hopes that he would share a full resolution photo with me and allow me to use his work. Much to my surprise, he was completely willing and even sent me the raw file for more latitude to work with! 

lofoten norway by evan campbell

Photo by Evan Campbell

Look at this beautiful capture! It’s not every day that a photographer is willing to send their own raw files to someone else. I personally would have a hard time doing it, so it goes without saying that I was both surprised and extremely thankful. After some time in Photoshop and a little back and forth between Eric and me, this was the result:

composite of skogafoss and aurora

Finished composite

I know everyone has different tastes and opinions when it comes to composites or heavy altering of photos; just look at the comments in JT Blenker’s article about compositing nightscape imagery. Personally, I have photos that range the full spectrum, from barely edited all the way to composites such as this one of Skogafoss. Whatever your opinion is on that topic, the takeaway here is that I made a connection with a fellow photographer using a social media platform by engaging in back and forth commentary about each other’s photography. This connection later opened the door for me to ask Evan to use one of his photos, resulting in a final composite that would have not happened without his generosity, cooperation, and collaboration. While I wouldn’t expect many photographers to be that generous, even just collaborating with or asking for feedback from fellow photographers can help you take the next step in progressing your work and enhancing your skills.  If I had never reached out or taken the chance with Evan, it would never have happened and my photo may have forever remained hidden, unfinished in my archives.  

Ultimately, the greatest lesson I learned was to actually communicate more with other photographers. Don’t just “like” someone's photo. Comment on their work and get to know them, send a message, and ask for critiques on your own work. This experience personally motivated me to reach out more to those who share my interests in this field and pay less attention to things like follower count and more attention to the quality of the people I’m connected with. 

With that said, I’d love to get to know and work with more people here on Fstoppers. Be sure to join me in the Fstoppers Community. Have you connected with another photographer who made an impact on your work? I’d love to hear any experiences in the comments!

Special thanks to Evan for being wonderful and trusting me with his work. Be sure to check him out on Instagram and Flickr.

Images used with permission of Evan Campbell.

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6 Comments

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

Great read and impressive result. I'm trying to reach out to photographers wherever i can and give feedback wherever i feel it's appropriate, at the same time i'm having a really hard time to find any resourceful feedback myself. Let alone Instagram, which is hardly the place for feedback and where i ran into some really weird people trying to reach out, even on community sites/forum you more often than not one runs into a wall of silence.

Alex Armitage's picture

I think it's important to make sure you are doing both. One thing I've found is people tend to only ask for critique or give critique, not both. Which makes sense right, those of us who either aren't as confident or sure of our own work might have an easier time asking for critique. While those with more experience and expertise don't feel the need to ask but they surely can offer their opinions.

That said, I think going about it this way isn't the most productive. We can all improve our work and we can learn from anyone. So it's advantageous for those that might be new to speak up and give their opinion on others work and the more experienced to remain humble and open to critique.

Not that you in particular do this, I just generally mean in a lot communities. I'm guilty of it and it's something I have put effort in working on. Trying to be more involved, and less anonymous.

Michael Little's picture

Great article and an interesting idea. Maybe you could save me a trip to Tallahassee!

Alex Armitage's picture

Why on earth wouldn't you want to come to this hot and humid college town? Haha!

Michael Little's picture

True, it's not all that different from Charleston

Tim Smith's picture

Fantastic Advice, better pictures and a better World!!!