Old 12-27-2009, 09:38 AM   #1
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Default Railpictures Beginners Guide

The following guide describes Railpictures.net, their standards, and requirements when submitting images. This guide is intended for beginners who may have questions regarding certain things that are hopefully covered in the following post. I see a lot of new members posting to the forums asking the same questions over and over. This post will hopefully answer your questions and save you the trouble of asking them. I'll break this post into a few pieces.

First, I'll talk about Railpictures, for anyone who is unaware of the procedures, etc. Then, I'll describe camera requirements and the quality standards of Railpictures. I'll then move onto vaguely talking about photo editing software which in most cases, is a requirement when submitting to Railpictures. I'll also discuss Railpictures.net rejections and ways to prevent you from getting a rejection. I'll then provide you with insight on how to seek advice, etc. when you receive a rejection.

First off, Railpictures.net is one of the most successful railroad image websites on the internet. Their site is home to over 275,000 quality railroad images and roughly 50,000 viewers each day. The site is very informative, as each image contains information on location, railroad, locomotive model, date, and a brief description of the image. Their search feature allows you to easily find certain locomotives, locations, and so on. Both the railfan and the photographer can benefit from the site.

Also, for anyone who is new to Railpictures, you'll quickly find there is a screening process. When submitting an image, it is added to the "queue" until one of the many RP.net screeners have time to review the image. Once the image is reviewed, it will either be accepted into the database or rejected. Later, I'll describe a few of the most common rejection reasons.

Unlike most sites who allow you to upload an unlimited amount of photos, Railpictures.net allows 10 images per 24 hours for each non-elite member. So remember to be selective in what you upload!

I encourage you to take a look at the following links which provide some additional insight on the site and their guidelines.

http://www.railpictures.net/us/

http://www.railpictures.net/addphotos/guidelines.php

Now, let's move onto camera requirements that reach Railpictures.net quality standards. I will use this subject loosely as it does not require a fancy DSLR camera to get images accepted here. Most of the regular contributors today, originally came to Railpictures using small, point and shoot cameras. A small camera capable of producing decent image is a requirement. A seven mega pixel (ballpark guess) point and shoot camera should be fully capable of producing RP worthy shots, providing other important factors, such as composition, sun angle, etc. are spot on. I'll later discuss composition and sun angle. Remember to always use your highest quality setting to capture the most detail.

It seems the discussion of point and shoot vs. SLR is a never ending conflict on the Railpictures forums, and other similar photography based forums. Again, while SLR's are more advanced and create opportunities that otherwise are not possible with a point and shoot, some do prefer the smaller, more compact cameras due to the lower price, and the fact they're not wishing to become a "professional" photographer.

One thing you will quickly notice on Railpictures is the variety in images. Some are simple, "wedgies" that are captured at grade crossings and station platforms while some are unique and "outside of the box" images that require extensive research and in some cases, long, tiring hikes just to reach that "perfect" spot. I've found that Railpictures.net is split up into two types of people. The railfan and the photographer. The photographer obviously being more creative, in most cases.

The quality standards here on Railpictures seem to be improving as time progresses. Obviously, a two mega pixel camera phone is not capable of producing RP images in 2009. Quality is one of the most essential factors when submitting to Railpictures. "Quality over quantity".

Overall, to sum it up in the most simple way I can, quality is important when submitting to RP as they do have standards, but an extremely expensive camera is not always a requirement. In recent years, point and shoot cameras have advanced considerably enabling you to do more. Of course, if your funds allow you to do so, and you're serious with photography, an SLR is always a wise investment that you will not regret.

Let's move onto post processing software, or in other words, photo editing software. This is bluntly, a requirement for when submitting images here. Especially for a beginner, it is nearly impossible to capture a "perfect" image without the help of some type of post processing software. You will at least need some type of software to resize your images to meet Railpictures regulations. These regulations are listed on the Add Photos page when uploading your image.

Other important factors such as rotation, cropping, color adjustments, sharpening, and contrast adjustments are also a requirement. Most free post processing softwares allow you to do the above mentioned adjustments. More advanced photo editing softwares such as Photoshop Elements can cost you $50 to $75.

Most photo editing softwares are rather easy to understand. Adjustments can be easily altered and over time, you'll quickly become familiar with the location of each adjustment.

Scroll down to the next post to continue reading..
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Old 12-27-2009, 09:39 AM   #2
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Now, let's discuss the rejections. Every Railpictures.net contributor has received a rejection. Simple as that. While at times, the rejections can seen annoying and discouraging, I personally try to take them as a learning experience. If you do the same, you'll quickly find yourself getting more images accepted. Briefly, I'll discuss a few of the most confusing rejections. Most of them are self explanatory. Each rejection has a brief description beside it, which I've found to be helpful.

First, let's talk about the PEQ rejection, a common rejection reason that at times, is very confusing to comprehend.

"Poor Esthetic Quality: This rejection reason means that the photo is of low esthetic qualities, or is simply not the type of material we are wishing to publish."

Sometimes the screeners simply find an image unappealing. This can be due to a few things. The image may not contain enough "railroad" oriented subjects, or perhaps the image is taken from what appears to be a trespassing location. Railpicture strictly prohibits images submitted from railroad property unless proper permission is granted. Photos in between the rails are often rejected for "PEQ" unless permission is mentioned. You can include a small message in the Screener Remarks on the upload page stating you were either standing on a grade crossing, or had full permission to be on railroad property.

Another common rejection that at times can be hard to understand and correct is the "Bad Composition".

"Composition/Balance: The composition of this photo is poor relating to the overall balance of the image."

This is sometimes due to the image being too centered or awkwardly cropped. Again, post processing software can enable you to edit the cropping, thus hopefully, preventing you from getting hit with bad balance.

The "Foreground Clutter" rejection is another confusing rejection. At first, I found this rejection to be confusing and irrelevant, but over time, I've found it is a quite important factor when trackside.

Foreground clutter, or in other words, obstructing objects are very important when submitting to Railpictures. This is an essential thing that is easily avoided if simply relocating, or removing the "distracting" object such as weeds, or other objects. Anything that is obstructing the train, such as a crossing gate, a signal cabin, etc. is sure to get you hit with the Foreground Clutter rejection, unless captured in a creative manner.

The high sun reject. This is one of the most common rejection reasons in the summer months, simply due to the fact that the sun is too high in the sky, resulting in odd and rather distracting shadows on the train. This is easily prevented if you're trackside before 10am and after 5pm.

Other simple rejections that are easily fixed in post processing software are bad color, bad contrast, undersharpened, over sharpened, too much noise/grain, over exposed, and underexposed. If familiar with editing software, these can be quickly fixed. I do recommend trying to fix them prior to submitting to the queue, as you're limited to only 10 uploads per day, as previously stated.

Two additional critical rejection reasons are back lit and cloudy day image.

A back lit image is when the subject (a train in this case) does not contain enough visible light. You ALWAYS want to have the sun behind your back. Shooting into the sun will result in a guaranteed rejection. As many members say, you'll like to have the sun on your shoulder. A well lit subject will make for a more attractive image. For an example of a well lit subject, take a look at some examples below.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 305540
Photograph © Chase55671

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 305538
Photograph © Chase55671


In both of the above images, I had the sun positioned directly behind me. A good way of noticing the angle of the sun is to look at your shadow. After a while, you'll get the hang of various sun angles.

The only time a back lit image is acceptable is if it is near dawn or dusk where the sun angle is extremely low. This make for a unique and rather colorful "glint" effect. Below is an example of the "glint" effect.

Image © John Benner
PhotoID: 282516
Photograph © John Benner


The cloudy day image rejection is common as well. In most cases, Railpictures will reject cloudy day images, unless the angle is unique and creative. If the angle is common, you'll most likely receive a rejection. This is easily avoided if you railfan on a sunny day.

I've posted an important quote below that I've personally found accurate and effective.

"Railpictures likes great photography of trains, not photography of great trains".

I've found this quote to be quite valid and even in a couple personal cases, quite helpful. Railpictures.net does not care if it is a "rare" Conrail painted geep or a rare BNSF warbonnet. They simply are wishing to publish good, quality images of trains in good light.

Now that I've pretty much covered a large portion of the rejection reasons and a couple suggestions on how to avoid receiving rejections, let's wrap this up by briefly explaining ways for you to seek advice. Obviously, the Railpictures.net forums are helpful! We provide you with constructive criticism on how to improve your images. If you act mature and respectful, we'll try our best to help you out.

Also, take a look at what gets accepted. This is quite helpful in providing you with a "feel" of what the screeners are wishing to publish. On average, a hundred images are accepted daily.

Finally, I hope you found this guide helpful. I know for a fact I haven't covered everything about photography and Railpictures, I didn't intend too, I simply wanted to give you an idea of the guidelines, and overall, the purpose of this site.

This guide simply is based on from personal experience, and overall, a lot of hours spent reviewing the accepted images, and obviously, my own rejections.

Anyone with questions or corrections are of course, very much so welcomed to chime in.

Thanks for reading,
Chase
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Old 12-27-2009, 02:11 PM   #3
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Chris' could we make this a Sticky? BTW, great effort Chase!
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Old 12-27-2009, 02:32 PM   #4
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We can't get most newbies to look at the RP Submission Guidelines. Chances are they won't read more than two paragraphs here.
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Old 12-27-2009, 02:51 PM   #5
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Still, sticky it, and have the link handy to give out to noobs.
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Old 12-27-2009, 03:02 PM   #6
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I made an earlier contribution, a first shot nuts and bolts rather than the broad overview Chase offers. Introducing the principle of the PUNT. Can't find the original but it is quoted here:

http://forums.railpictures.net/showp...9&postcount=25
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Old 12-27-2009, 03:04 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TheRoadForeman View Post
Chris' could we make this a Sticky? BTW, great effort Chase!
Agreed on both counts. As to Joe's statement there's no doubt, but maybe some of those who can't put in the effort to read two paragraphs won't put in the effort to submit photos. Of course, there are and always will be those who aren't smart enough to "know what they don't know" and will post anyway. Wasn't it Einstein who said "there are only two things that are infinite - the universe and human stupidity - and I'm not sure about the former" or words to that effect?
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Old 12-27-2009, 03:41 PM   #8
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read the whole thing, another excellent guide chase. I didn't learn alot as i knew most of what was said, but still nice work it's very informative.
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Old 12-27-2009, 03:45 PM   #9
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Thanks fellas for the comments. I figured it was worth a shot. I know some newbies couldn't care less about reading it, but despite that, I decided to type it up and post anyway.

Chase
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Old 12-27-2009, 04:29 PM   #10
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Great job Chase! This "guideline" has a great base on which to build upon.

Regardless of whether they read it or not, this guide at least provides us a link to paste in topics that are created by new contributors as a "read this first" section. It also allows for elaboration if the individual requires more.
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Old 12-29-2009, 03:27 AM   #11
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I agree. I have like others hit a few bumps here and there but was helped out by the forum members and even Mr. Kilroy helped me.

On the high sun rejects I think one thing can be added it does not mean summer. I have had shots where the sun was low but dead on the nose of the train where you get the shadows along the sides of it and get dinged for high sun even though it was January in PA

The cloudy day reject I have had some fair luck if it is raining or some sort of visible precip is falling.

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=306145

I have also had luck if there is unique subject or scenery

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=300455

The thing I would like to say is that RP.net has helped me dramatically improve my photography skills and to me it has helped me become a better photographer.

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Old 12-30-2009, 12:23 AM   #12
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Here is the full text of the PUNT post (putting it here because I am about to make reference to it in another thread):

Ok, here we go. I will write something generic in the first pass. Also for anyone else who is trying to figure RP out.

The goal: get one (1) shot accepted on RP.
The technique: get the simplest possible shot, and have it look decent.
The theme: don't do too much, but do the basics right.

[There is an important aspect of photography here, especially for beginners, that I will call PUNT. Basically, if conditions are not such that you can get a basic, sunny day, wedgie/roster shot, go do something else to have fun! Don't take a shot that will frustrate you in the end! You can a) take a shot for your personal collection with no expectation that RP will accept, b) mess around with "creative" shots, wierd crops, angles, whatever, c) go somewhere and take a hike/walk, d) eat a sandwich, e) go home and watch TV. ]

TRACKSIDE:

version a) an unmoving subject - follow this guideline if you know of or run across a train or an engine parked somewhere

1) find your subject
2) go to a spot from which you can see that the sun is shining on both the nose and the side of the lead engine. Choose a spot where you can see a good bit of both, not mostly nose, not mostly side. If there is no such spot, PUNT! This means if there is no sun, PUNT. If you can't cross the tracks and you need to, PUNT. Etc.
3) set the camera to auto. [comment to the peanut gallery - this is a first shot, and the train is not moving. Auto is fine.]

[I am tempted to make the comment that, if there is no camera in your hands, PUNT. But that would be gratuitous... ]

4) Use some combination of your legs and the zoom on the camera to frame the subject. Leave a modest amount of room on all sides of the subject. If the subject is a full train, make sure the entire visible part of the train is in the frame. DON'T PUT THE NOSE OF THE TRAIN IN THE CENTER!!!!! [Note that I do not say PUNT. You can always frame up a basic wedgie. Sure, there are advanced things to work on, such as making sure a tree is not "growing" out the top of the engine, but let's leave that for another day.]

5) take the shot.


Version b) a moving subject

1) find where your subject will be when it comes by.
2) go to a spot where the sun is coming over your shoulder as you are facing the tracks in the direction the train is coming from. If you cannot find such a spot, PUNT.
3) figure out where the train will be when it gets there, and figure out what parts of the scene have to be within the frame for the entire train to fit. Get ready (choose the right zoom, say) to take that picture.
4) get the camera set with a fast shutter speed. Choose other settings appropriately. Get the camera ready to focus. In many cases the autofocus is fine. If there are problems with the autofocus or you have had bad experiences with it, set manual focus for the spot where you expect the nose of the train to be. DO NOT PUT THE NOSE OF THE TRAIN IN THE CENTER!!!

5) when the train arrives, take the picture.


AT HOME:

Download the shot to your computer. Take the following steps: level (rotate) as needed, fix exposure (I suggest the automatic version for now), resize, sharpen. Which settings? Depends on your software. Save under a new file name as a jpg.

Upload to RP.

Don't get furstrated at the rejection this time, post to the forum. And then PUNT for a bit.

Resubmit, bask in glory.


IN THE FUTURE

- try all this other stuff you have heard about. Get rejected, often. Get frustrated. Post to the forum. When totally frustrated, follow the sequence above and at least get another shot accepted. Eventually, you will figure it all out.
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Old 12-31-2009, 03:47 AM   #13
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My opinion on the "always shoot with the sun to your back:"

I am going to compare this to a kid and some rule his mom made. The rule is presumably for a reason (going in the road will get you run over). When you learn more, that rule won't really apply but for now you can see it as punishable with death (or rejection from RP). So, the sun over the shoulder is true with beginners but when you get advanced you can vary from that and still make good shots. It is not like Mitch has to shoot with the sun over his shoulder or anything. Am I clear?

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Old 12-31-2009, 03:50 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
Here is the full text of the PUNT post
Ok, I've seen you use "PUNT" several times now. What the heck does it stand for??
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Old 12-31-2009, 04:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
Ok, I've seen you use "PUNT" several times now. What the heck does it stand for??
Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
There is an important aspect of photography here, especially for beginners, that I will call PUNT. Basically, if conditions are not such that you can get a basic, sunny day, wedgie/roster shot, go do something else to have fun! Don't take a shot that will frustrate you in the end!
Reading comprehension FAIL.

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Old 12-31-2009, 04:42 AM   #16
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good read,

thanks for the tips and insight....bookmarked!
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Old 07-13-2010, 05:01 PM   #17
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This information is very helpful, i think i'll go take some pictures now!
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cblaz View Post
Reading comprehension FAIL.

- Chris
He still doesn't explain what the letters stand for. So, no comprehension fail on my part whatsoever.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:36 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
He still doesn't explain what the letters stand for. So, no comprehension fail on my part whatsoever.
You can't be serious?

You are serious!

Not every series of capital letters is an acronym. Among the other uses for capital letters in series is the use for emphasis.

Reading comprehension FAIL.

Or maybe a familiarity with American sports culture FAIL.
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:42 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chase55671 View Post

Unlike most sites who allow you to upload an unlimited amount of photos, Railpictures.net allows 10 images per 24 hours for each non-elite member. So remember to be selective in what you upload!
Hmm, I only get to upload 2 per 24 hour period. I must of have been a very bad boy or something.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:17 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Indecline View Post
Hmm, I only get to upload 2 per 24 hour period. I must of have been a very bad boy or something.
No everyone is at a max of 2 now unless Elite witch is worth it just so the pages load faster.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:49 PM   #22
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Are you serious?

You mean that now all these people only have 2 uploads?
Nick DAmato
Janusz Morezk
Mitch Goldman
Darren Megowan
Steve Schmollinger
Pete Lerro
Steve Carter
Joe Hinson
Jim Thias
and more
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everytime i see non-train photos of yours i think, "so much talent. wasted on trains."

Last edited by crazytiger; 07-14-2010 at 12:13 AM.
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:03 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
Ok, I've seen you use "PUNT" several times now. What the heck does it stand for??
Pause Under Nearest Tree. And eat a kit kat.
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:06 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
Not every series of capital letters is an acronym.
And THAT is what I asked. One never knows coming from you.
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Old 07-14-2010, 02:38 AM   #25
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Quote:
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No everyone is at a max of 2 now unless Elite witch is worth it just so the pages load faster.
Hm, really? Because I just checked my Add Photos page and:
Quote:
You are currently logged in as (username).

Your current 24 hour upload limit is 10.
You have uploaded 2 photos so far today.
You have 8 upload slots remaining.
I am not an Elite member, and using Firefox + Adblock Plus eliminates all ads from the site, permitting very fast page loading.

Dan, it sounds like you may have inadvertently tripped the excessive rejections red flag?
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Issaquah, WA
View my portfolio at RailPictures.net
View my portfolio at Flickr Not quite so new anymore!
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