Shoulders-back-chest-out-chin-in-head-up, I need to lay the law down here! When it comes to the technical specifications for Meet Your Neighbours pictures, we’re needing uniformity so that ALL the attention is on the subject rather than the prowess of the photographer. We want a picture of a broad-hipped danglefly from Australia to have just the same look as that of a hare-lipped hoghopper from Florida so the pictures are only about the the animals portrayed.
Since the start of the project, we’ve shifted the goalposts slightly (to make your life and ours simpler) but one thing that has not changed is our requirement for a background that is 255 in each channel: pure white. It is this that makes MYN pictures so useful to designers as they can lay the image straight out on a page without having to do any cutting out. This also allows us to create the species composite panels that are gaining popularity as a way to illustrate biodiversity (not least through David Liittschwager’s One Cubic Foot project). It’s also vital to get the balance of front and back lighting right: enough back light to show translucence, enough front to fill shadows but not overwhelm the backlight. Noticeable shadows ruin the atmosphere of the picture and the front light must be diffused: twin undiffused flashes are too harsh.
Now, I confess that there is a little divergence of opinion between Clay and me about the necessity of shoot bugs on a transparent set held at a distance from the backlit white background. He has produced many great pictures with the animal sitting directly on a piece of white acrylic whereas I, and others, have made just as many spoiled by over-lighting from underneath. This is the second most common problem I see when editing MYN submissions, easily solved if the subject is placed on a transparent set and held at some distance from the white background. I address this issue on page 25 of my ebook.
The most common problem however, is framing. In short, the more “unconcluded elements” present in the picture, the more limited its uses. Unconcluded elements arise when things in the picture are cut off: part of the animal, the branch it’s sitting on, stems and other plant parts, you name it. One delicate plant stem meeting the edge of the frame is fine. But if there are a lot then it can’t just be placed on a white page without putting a frame around it: it looks weird otherwise (page 38 of the ebook). If you’ve cropped in tightly to boot then you’re sunk because a frame is going to look like it’s crowding the subject. Please, keep things as simple as possible within the frame: we’re trying to photograph specimens rather than make regular photos that just happen to have a white background.
So, here’s a quick rundown of the technical specifications we need:
• 8 bit, Adobe RGB ,JPEG saved at “Maximum” quality or “12”.
• Keywords and description need to be applied in the appropriate fields (this is most easily done in the Library module if you’re using Lightroom.)
• Files should be named using this protocol: your name, the country the images were shot in then the file number.
• Backlit pure white background, 255 in each channel, to each corner of the picture with diffused front fill.
Easy! We’re happy to look at submissions from anywhere in the world not already covered or species groups not covered in the geographical areas with an existing photographer .
-By MYN Co-founder Niall Benvie