Interview with Charlesjsharp, regular contributor of Wikipedia's Featured Pictures.: Looking back on a decade of contributions including over 1,000 images and over three dozen Featured Pictures, Charles shares his wildlife photography experience and tips.
Someone told me anyone could edit Wikipedia, so on 29 October 2006 I uploaded a few photos into articles. The one of my son skiing has remained the 'main' article image for nearly ten years. I started taking photos when I was very young, then took up wildlife photography more seriously when I retired and remarried. We both share a passion for wildlife (and travel). I set up galleries on my Commons User pages and started submitting images for Quality Image and Valued Image status. Then I learnt that someone had submitted one of the first photos I had taken with my new camera set up to be Picture of the Day in France in 2014 and English Wikipedia Featured Picture in 2015.
Could you tell us a bit about Sharp Photography?
Maintaining my galleries on Wikipedia was quite time-consuming and with 1000+ images got too complicated, so I needed my own website. This has help me establish my reputation and also helps me find my own pictures easily! I cannot store full-size images on my website as it grinds to a halt, so I link to Flickr galleries. Having a decent website does mean I get better guides when I travel.
What is your process of getting an image to featured picture status, and do you have any advice to people who may be new to the process?
I submit pictures for featured picture status on Commons and English Wikipedia. The Commons process is a very useful way of helping you edit and post-process your images. Most of the 'judges' do make constructive comments. English Wikipedia is more random as there are fewer judges, though the calibre of comments is just as good. Many decent nominations fail however just because they don't reach the quorum, so it's a frustrating experience. I always submit to QI and VI before going for FP. The best compositions I submit to FP. And you have to be prepared for forceful criticism. And my top tips when using Photoshop CS6? Here is my editing process for a wildlife QI with no glaring defects: 1. Rotate image 2. Improve the original composition by cropping (e.g. rule of thirds) 3. Clone out any distracting elements that don't make the image dishonest (stray leaves, twigs etc. are OK) 4. Do very gentle sharpening across the image (Unsharp Mask 1 Pixel 50%), but do bit more on faces and eyes if needed (sharp eyes crucial for FP) 5. Reduce Shadows (20-40%) and highlights (~3%) 6. Apply Autotone then Fade Autotone (sometimes 50%) 7. Try Gamma Correction (max 0.9) 8. Check Color Balance 9. Apply noise reduction across all the image (my default is 70% Strength; 70% Preserve Details 70% Reduce Color Noise 0% Sharpen) 10. Selective noise reduction on background (I use Quick Selection Tool set at 6 pixels - 3 pixels for hair). If you are new to the process, I'd suggest 1. Submit images to QI. 2. Get involved in assessing images on Commons before trying your own. 3. Then nominate an outstanding image by an established Commons photographer 4. Nominate your own best image ever. 5. Don't get upset when it gets shot down and don't get personal! Charlesjsharp (talk) 12:13, 14 October 2017 (UTC)
What was the hardest picture for you to take/get to FP? What is your favorite picture?
I don't stake out animals and wait for hours for them to appear like many professionals. I'm more of a wildlife portrait photographer and just hope something interesting happens when my cameras ready. We were moving around a lake in Kenya in 2016 when we saw a giant kingfisher catch a fish and moved closer to the pole where it was perched. The sequence I took of the bird smashing the fish against the post to break its spine so it could swallow it was a nice bit of luck.
What is next for you?
More countries. More wildlife. And a wildlife book is on the way too. I've also got a bunch of light-hearted animal photo-quizzes on my website www.sharpphotography.co.uk and that might go somewhere...
Where do you see Wikipedia in the next few years?
Just getter better and better. There doesn't seem to be any serious competitor and I'm impressed by the accuracy of the articles. Wikipedia is always the first place I go for information on anything.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Anything I don't like. I do think that too many of the active participants on the Commons FPC project are damaging the FP credibility. It seems that almost any photo can get voted through on a you-vote-for-me and I'll-vote-for-you process – no collusion, just a low quality theshold. Charlesjsharp (talk) 15:48, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
Charles' Featured pictures on English Wikipedia
Meerkat Suricata suricatta
Proboscis monkey Nasalis larvatus ♀
Olive baboon with juvenile Papio anubis ♀
Jaguar Panthera onca palustris ♂
Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus ♀
Yellow-headed caracara Milvago chimachima on capybara Hydrochoeris hydrochaeris