We still have over a month of summer left, which means there’s still time to go on exciting adventures, soak up the summer sun with your friends, and make the most of your free time. One of the best summer activities is going on a camping trip with your loved ones. This opportunity is ideal for bonding, spending quality time away from technology, and improving your photography skills.
Camping trips offer breathtaking surroundings and photogenic subjects. They’re great for photographers who want to experiment with a lot of different genres without worrying about the results. However, due to the sheer amount of things you can photograph, these trips can be a little overwhelming.
To save you from unnecessary stress, here is a list of photo ideas that will help you make the most of your travels.
Wide Shots Featuring Your Surroundings – Landscape Photography
Give your future self a clear idea of where you were during your trip. Photograph your surroundings using a wide-angle lens. If you don’t have one, take several photos of one location and stitch them in an editing program; this will create a very eye-catching panorama.
Wide shots are perfect for capturing the general atmosphere of a location. They also look good in portfolios, on social media, and in art galleries. You might even end up selling your landscape photos to some very eager art appreciators. 🙂
Details – Macro Photography/Diptychs
As appealing as details are, they’re easy to forget. This is why it’s very important that you photograph as many of them as you can. During your trip, this can be the mug you’re using, the food you’re eating, or the leaves on the tree that’s right above your sleeping bag. Every moment counts.
You might not use detailed snapshots in your portfolio, but you’ll definitely use them to go back in time to a very refreshing and fulfilling adventure. If you want to be extra creative, use these details to create two-photo collages called diptychs (pictured above).
Posed and Candid Photos – Portrait Photography
A camping trip is nothing without friends, so make sure you include them in your best shots! Make sure you take a combination of posed and candid portraits. Posed photos are great for social media and even your own portfolio. Candid photos, on the other hand, can be proudly added to family albums and cherished for years to come.
Even though drone photos are very, very popular, don’t let that stop you from appreciating your own surroundings from above. By photographing your experience from a unique angle, you’ll add to your rich collection of landscapes, details, and portraits. These visual memories are bound to make your trip unforgettable. (And if you really want to take it to the next level, film your journey!)
Different Times of Day
To really improve your photography skills, make sure you take photos at different times of the day. Daylight will help you take bright photos of your friends and surroundings; the golden hour will provide you with the perfect light for all kinds of photos, and the evening will give you the chance to sharpen your nighttime photography skills.
I hope the ideas above help you make the most of your photography skills and your camping trip. I’m certain that by the time it’s over, you’ll be significantly more experienced as an artist.
Regardless of how much you love the world of photography, though, make sure you live in the moment, too. Trips are meant to be relaxing, fun, and eye-opening. As soon as you start to feel stressed, put everything down and just be there for yourself and your friends.
Now let’s go out and make some amazing memories. 🙂
For many of us portrait photographers, shooting in excellent lighting conditions is an absolute joy. An abundance of light prevents us from worrying about ISO, flash, and the plethora of technical issues most nighttime photographers have to consider. When the sun sets or when the weather worsens, we might be tempted to put down our cameras and wait for better shooting days. However, much beauty can be found in darkness. The artificial light coming from streetlights, torches, and windows is as valuable as sunlight. In addition to being a useful source of light, it adds a touch of mystery and uniqueness to photos, allowing their creators to pour great imagination and originality into their portfolios.
If you’re not sure where to begin then consider some, if not all, of the tips below. They cover important topics like ISO, focus, the desire to experiment, and more. Using these tips, you’ll be able to conquer your artistic fear of the dark and create eye-catching photos in the process.
Experiment with artificial light
Artificial light is useful for a variety of reasons:
It’s always available; you can always create your own using something as simple as a torch. This gives all kinds of photography enthusiasts, regardless of their busyness, the opportunity to shoot.
Its intensity, color, and position can be altered, even outdoors.
It can be used to replicate sunlight.
As you take all of these points into consideration, embrace the concept of experimentation. If you don’t own expensive lighting equipment, use your phone, torch, or street lights instead. The less equipment you have, the more healthy challenges you’ll have to face. For example, if you have to shoot in complete darkness with only a single torch, you’ll be faced with questions about the light’s position and distance from your subject. Experimenting with this might lead to unexpected shooting opportunities as well as a brighter imagination. Once you do obtain better lighting equipment, you’ll be all the more prepared for challenges, creative ideas, and striking portraits.
Remember that a high ISO number is your friend
Oftentimes, high ISO is associated with unpleasantly grainy photographs. While this is true if your ISO is at its highest, a lower amount will create a balanced and sharp portrait. An ISO of 1600 is often more than enough to take a clear portrait without accumulating an unnecessary amount of grain.
Get the correct white balance using Kelvin
In photography, Kelvin is a unit used to measure color temperature. In situations when artificial light is too yellow or too blue, Kelvin can save the resulting photos from looking unnatural. The scale itself typically ranges from 2000K to 9000K. If the artificial light you’re working with is very warm, set your white balance to 3500K or lower. If the opposite is true, the color temperature should be anywhere from 5500K to 8500K. Though making these changes takes time, mastering them will give you more control over your photographs and save you lots of time during the editing process. With time, worrying about fixing strange colors in a portrait will cease to be an issue.
Use a small source of light to focus right
There are times when the camera cannot focus, even though some light is present. For example, if you want to photograph a silhouette set against a bright city, the camera may get confused and focus on the wrong thing. Even if you focus manually, it may be too dark for you to find your subject’s face. Fixing this is very simple: make your subject hold a small source of light, be it their phone or a torch, close to their face. Once your focus is ready, hold it until your subject removes the light and poses again. This will guarantee sharp results.
A few final tips
If your camera allows, shoot RAW; unlike JPEG, RAW doesn’t compress files or remove valuable image information. When it comes to nighttime photography, RAW files are of utmost importance because of a number of precious details they preserve.
Shooting in continuous (or burst) mode will allow you to take a bunch of photographs in a matter of seconds. This will guarantee at least one sharp shot. If you’re new to nighttime photography, make sure you experiment a little with this.
Avoid harsh, direct light. Standing directly under or too close to artificial light will create harsh portraits. Unless you’re experimenting with moody portraits, take a few steps away from direct sources of light. This, combined with the appropriate color temperature, will add softness to your portraits.
Using some, if not all, of the aforementioned tips, will help you become a better portrait photographer in general, even if nighttime shoots aren’t something you’re interested in. However, allow yourself to experiment with every photography genre – everything you learn will affect your main interests, forming you into a better and more open-minded artist.
18One of the most profitable occupations a photographer can have is shooting portraits. Everyone wants to get beautiful portraits to keep around for memories. Specifically, professional family portrait photographers are in high demand. However, working with families can be difficult. Trying to find the right setting and mood for each family takes a bit of time and understanding. Working with younger families and their children can be especially tiring. But, creating a lasting memory doesn’t have to be a bad day at the ‘office’. By following these tips, you can capture the beauty and individuality of each family in a picture that will last generations.
Outside or Inside
If you’re working in a portrait studio, you may not have a choice in this matter. But if you’re freelancing or have a studio that has outdoor space, you need to decide which is better for your family. Sometimes you can let the family decide, but a lot of clients can be indecisive about their photos. This is where you need to come in and show them the way. Decide beforehand if you’re going to shoot indoors or outdoors and have everything set up and ready to go.
In-studio portraits are actually perfect for younger families with small children. They are also great for families with older members. The confining space allows you and the parents to keep track of the youngsters. You won’t have to worry about anyone falling in dangerous terrain. Keeping everyone happy and safe is easy to do in your indoor studio.
Shooting outside can also be a great advantage. Generally, an older family with children who are 10+ years old do great outdoors. The natural sunlight can give your pictures a beautiful glow and enhance the portrait. Taking a family portrait outdoors is especially great for unique shots. Get creative here when posing your models. These are the kinds of photos that families will be able to enjoy long into the future.
Use a Tripod
The desire to be on the move with your camera is hard to overcome. This is especially true if you are shooting outside or trying to capture natural moments or movement in the portrait. But there are a lot of advantages to keeping still and using a tripod to shoot your portraits. First of all, it allows for more open communication between you and your client. When you always have your camera to your eye it’s hard to be aware of anything else. By making eye contact with your clients and talking to them, you’ll find out more things about the family that you can incorporate into your shoot. By not being constantly on the move, you also ensure that you have the time to check your settings before each shot. There’s nothing like getting the perfectly framed picture on the wrong settings to ruin a whole photo shoot.
Use Manual Exposure
This is something that is true for all kinds of portrait shots, not just the family portrait. When shooting a consistent subject in a consistent location, it only makes sense to keep your settings consistent. After you get your settings settled, you don’t want them to change. Having different exposures for each photo will make processing and editing a whole lot more difficult. When you set your camera on the shutter or aperture modes it can change the settings without your knowledge. Be sure to shoot on manual to keep all of the settings consistent.
Keep the Focus Steady
Another consistency issue can be the focus. If you don’t lock in the focus or have it on the manual setting, it can shift during the shoot. For example, if your focus is set to the shutter setting and someone moves, the focus could fix on the background. Sometimes a picture that was perfectly framed and posed can come out looking fuzzy and blurred. By keeping your focus setting locked or on manual mode you can make sure that your family is always the focal point of the picture.
Families are always on the lookout for a great photographer to make lasting memories for them. Once you’ve made a name for yourself a family portrait photographer, there will be no end of clients wanting to work with you. You can ensure your portraits turn out great by getting the proper camera settings. Again, it’s best to keep everything in a manual setting. Not only does this give you control over your final product, but it helps give your photos consistency.
Keeping a steady hand and using a tripod will help your photos come out looking solid. But most importantly, remember to help your family have fun. By following these tips you’ll create amazing family portraits.
I love winter photos. There is something special in landscapes full of snow, people covered in several layers of winter clothes, animals with white fur… Unfortunately, I do not get many chances to take such photos because I live close to Barcelona, in a warm Mediterranean area. For me snow is something extremely unusual. It snows here once in 20 years and when it happens Barcelona just shuts down.
Although our winter doesn’t look so wintery we still have it!! It is just different and not so hard as in other parts of the world. But we still notice a big difference between our summer and our winter: we have rains and cloudy days, temperatures are lower and it can get really windy. However, we still have quite a lot sunny days even in winter.
Winter photography tips are a bit different for areas with Mediterranean or any other warm weather. Unless we travel to some mountain, we won’t need special protection for our gear from low temperature or snow and even rain can be handled quite easily.On the other hand, we don’t have the typical image of the white winter people usually think of. Today I am coming with winter tips adapted to warm weather areas. Let’s check them out!
#1 Focus your photos in weather elements that represent winter in your area
Observe your winter weather, look for weather elements that represent it. It might be the wind, the rain or a gray sky. Try to include weather elements in your photos to give them a more wintery look. Trees moving billowing in the wind, heavy clouds, rain puddles in the streets…
#2 Include nature elements in your frame
Nature has strong seasonal patterns, so you can take advantage of it! Trees without leaves, plants that are typically from winter, birds or other animals that are typical for winter.
#3 Take photos of winter events
There are things that happen only in winter in winter. Well, known holidays such Christmas also got quite universal, so including Christmas decorations might also have a connection with winter ( if you are in the North hemisphere).
But there are a lot of other local events related with “winter”. For example, in some catalonian comarques such as Garraf and Penedes, we celebrate the “Xato Days”. The Xato is a typical dish that we eat just in winter. During the Xato Days, experts in xato meet for contests that will determine who is cooking the best Xato. These contests are held in the different municipalities, in a street event. Here, we heard “Xato” and we think: Winter food! You can find local events around the world that are related to winter. Maybe not a lot of people knows about them outside your region. However, I think that sharing your local events through your photography is a great way to show a different and unique aspect of this season and to spread your local activities and traditions.
#4 Look for universal elements that we all associate with “cold”
In the last tip, I told you to go local. Another totally different strategy is to look for elements that everybody associates with winter. Photos of people with coats, wood hats, scarves billowing in the wind, cups with hot steamy beverages, burning fireplaces, all are associated with winter.
#5 Emphasize the wintery look of your photos in Lightroom
You can check this article about Color and mood to learn in more detail how to modify the color of your photos.
Decreasing the saturation of your photos or using a matte effect might also help you to get a more wintery look. You can check the Masterclass about saturation to learn how the Saturation slide work. For winter look, the saturation should decrease (moving the saturation slider towards the left) because you want to lessen the colors instead of enhancing them. The matte effect is also a good resource for winter. I explained how to get this effect in Lightroom in my article about “Tips for post-processing forest images in Lightroom”. Scroll down to the “Add a dreamy look” for detailed explanations.
Winter presets are also really helpful. Besides saving a lot of time in post-processing, presets provides you with a lot of new creative approaches.
There is always an element in photography that you have to think about with every subject, and that’s background. This is true in still life, product, fashion, portraits, and even landscape. There are a few background choices for each of these different types of photography. A background can be a wide array of buildings, walls, floors, color, landscape, greenery; the sky is the limit (literally.) It is always a good idea to know what to look for while location scouting as well.
A lot of your background detail also has to do with your depth of field. You can either control your background with a blurred or sharpness by a shallow or deep depth of field, depending on your subject matter. A shallow depth of field is popular in portraits, so your subject is your main point of focus. You can use a deeper depth of field though to enhance your background clarity and texture. Keep your subject away from the background and not right up against a graffiti wall and tree, this is because these textures and colors can be too distracting. Shooting your subject in wide open spaces with a shallow depth of field and will give you the ability to have a subtle background of light colors and textures. Graffiti is a great example for this because it is a popular choice for a fun and colorful background but can also become a little distracting to your subject so by shooting your subject away from the background you can still gather the color and design without too much detail. Other background choices that you can use the subtle color, texture, and pattern are brick walls, wallpapers, and colorful doors. Think about the landscape in your image too and the great environment you are located in.
A variety of angles can also help your background choices. If you are shooting down on your subject you can use various lines on the road, grass, or any other greenery around or even just the texture. Shooting forward onto your subject will give you space and environment area that you are in. Shooting up on your subject can make you a viewpoint of the sky, clouds, or anything else above your subject matter.
Food and still life photography gives you an excellent array of choices with colors, textures, and backgrounds and offers a great way to be creative. You can even make your backgrounds using various woods and papers. Another background choice for smaller subjects is scrapbook paper from your local craft store where you can purchase paper patterns that look like wood, marble, and other surfaces that you enjoy.
There are some things you will want to avoid in your background. By using these guidelines, it will help you avoid distractions from the subject of your image. You usually want the brightest point of your image to be your subject; this means that you will want to avoid brighter highlights in the background or colors that could be distracting such as bright oranges, neons, etc. Poles and tree branches are common objects that can get in the way of a great photograph and something you want to avoid, especially when shooting portraits.
If you are having a difficult time finding the right kind of background texture and color you can always Photoshop out your background and replace it with a new background. There are many Photoshop actions, and Lightroom presets to help you achieve this. This is also where green screen photography comes in handy. A green screen can help you knock out the background easier to replace it later on. This color is used because Photoshop can read the color much better to separate from your subject in post editing.
When we are talking about the background, you always want to consider foreground as a factor in your photography. The foreground is a great way to bring depth into your image and also a good use of framing. You can achieve this by setting objects in front of your still-life images. Use trees or greenery in the foreground with a shallow depth of field, or any other creative factors to frame your image. If you find your foreground is too sharp in your image and becomes a distraction you can always blur this in post-production.
An important factor to photography is not only our background but also our foreground. Foreground can be used in many different ways in your photography by framing your subject, adding texture, and design to an image, which can all lead your eye to your main subject. Foreground can also tell more of the story in your image and pull you into the image.
To some of us photographers, foregrounds can become a little daunting and intimidating because we worry about distractions within an image. This is one factor that I think we can all grow and experiment with in our photographs. Making a foreground work in an image can really create a more artistic photograph altogether and also tell more of a story. Here are a few tips on how to create photographs with a great use of foreground.
Since photography is a two-dimensional art form you will want to add some depth into your image to let your viewer feel as though they can step into the image. Using a foreground will add some depth and dimension to your image. One of the simplest and also important ways to make a foreground work is your knowledge of the depth of field. You can use a shallow or deep depth of field depending on the subject you are trying to photograph. If you are photographing a landscape you will want to keep a deep depth of field if it is a wide-angle shot. What if it’s a telephoto photograph and your image is compressed, such as wildlife photography? In this case, a deeper depth of field could add a little bit of distraction. In this case using a shallow depth of field could frame your image and add some environment without causing distractions.
There are different ways to work with a foreground based on your subject. When you are photographing a landscape it can be as the reflection in a pond or body of water from your landscape or image. This is a great way to show mood in your photography. Getting lower in your image will help improve your vanishing point and bring some drama into your image. A popular landscape photography image is a road using the leading lines into your vanishing point and a simple way to show depth in your image.
The foreground is most commonly used to frame your subject and works for people and landscapes.For example, if you set your subject behind a bush or tree you can use the leaves or greenery in the foreground to frame your subject’s face. This shows a sense of the environment that you are in, showing not only what is behind of your subject but also in the front. If you use a shallow depth of field this will show the environment without becoming distracting. One popular portrait idea that works with creative foregrounds is to have your subject hold an item out in front of them as a focus point.
Now that we have talked about foreground and background in our images we want to work all of these factors into one image. The easiest way to think of working with a foreground, middle ground, and background is if you can find three layers in an image. Your foreground doesn’t have to be far away from your subject either, it can be as simple as people walking in the foreground or a glowing sign in front of a building.
Some ways that your foreground could be distracting is if it’s sharper than your subject. You want to make sure that your focus is still the main point of your image and you have to remember the rules of backgrounds and incorporate that into foregrounds.When we talk about focus we are not only talking about the sharpness but what’s bringing the subject into focus. Make sure your focus point is the sharpest and also the brightest object in your subject. If you have a light background and foreground you can contrast that with a darker color. Objects that are brighter, lighter, or more saturated than your subject tend to become a distraction.
The foreground is not only a good technical skill to have in your photography but also a great way to boost your creativity and bring more oomph into an image.
(Though this article mainly focuses on portrait photography, almost all of the following tips can be used by other types of photographers, too.)
Outdoor photos can often end up looking dull and uninteresting. To avoid that, it’s important to seek nature, come up with stories which mean something to you as an artist, and be cunning when it comes to challenging lighting conditions. Like anything in the art world, outdoor photography requires curiosity, sharp observation skills, and patience. These three elements will enable you to take better photos outside, no matter what (or who) your subject is.
Here are ways in which your outdoor portraits can thrive.
Look for nature
It’s no surprise that humans, when given a chance to spend time in a tranquil place, feel warmth and acceptance in their natural surroundings. Even a small park at the very center of a bustling city can serve as a refuge for many. Signs of nature in any location create both hope and admiration – reflecting that in your photographs will give your work an air of familiarity. If you feel that your photographs are too simple, find a peaceful area brimming with nature and shoot there. Allow your subjects to gracefully blend in with nature and let your creativity do the rest. For example, branches can be great blurred foregrounds, and flowers in the form of bokeh can add vibrancy to a photo. No matter how insignificant a detail seems to be, challenge yourself by attempting to use it in your photograph. You’ll be surprised to notice what a tremendous difference simply adding an element can make. Sometimes, the things that are ignored by most people are the things which deserve our attention the most.
(Un)favorable lighting conditions
If portrait photography is new to you, try experimenting with soft natural light first. In the warmer months, golden hour is your best creative friend; its light will make any photograph stand out. It addition to being the perfect backlight, golden-light will illuminate your subject’s face beautifully, making it easier to enhance your results during the editing process.
If you’re willing to experiment a little more fearlessly, work with artificial light at night. Nighttime light is very flattering when it directly hits half of a subject’s face. In addition to being visually appealing, this composition creates mystery and originality. Add a few more elements to it, like a mysterious foreground or a freelensing technique, and you’ll discover an exciting world of creative possibilities. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of experimenting with light – if used properly, it will reflect your ideas in the best possible way.
If you find the lighting conditions unfavorable on a very sunny day, take photos in the shade. Nature is ideal when it comes to blocking harsh sunlight or creating interesting light patterns. If it’s a gloomy day, create your own light or use a reflector – even mild reflected light can add an attractive glow to your subject’s face. If, however, a shoot doesn’t go as planned, don’t be afraid of trying over and over again. You’ll achieve your desired results sooner or later.
A story, or two
The outside world is perfect for storytelling. While homely photos are ideal for creating cozy feelings in the viewer’s heart, images taken outdoors are wonderful for telling more elaborate stories. Photos taken in a busy crowd could reflect your subject’s fish-out-of-water feelings, while a beautiful field in the countryside could be a terrific opportunity to add a sense of belonging to your photographs. Whichever location you choose to take photos in, you can find a fitting story to keep in mind throughout your shoot.
If, for any reason, you feel you’re running out of ideas, read a book or watch a film before your photo session to give your creativity more resources to work with. There’s an abundance of themes you could work with, from isolation to exhilaration, to fascination, and the list goes on. The outdoor world, filled with unpredictable situations and all kinds of elements, can make those themes come to life. Keep your artistic eyes open at all times, and your mind will soon be filled with all kinds of ideas worth revealing.
Once you become more comfortable with lighting, strengthen your nature-finding skills, and become adept at coming up with photo-related stories, you’ll find your portfolio blooming rapidly. A thorough knowledge of lighting will help you find potential in all kinds of weather situations, while strengthened storytelling skills will allow you to feel more confident as a photographer. These skills will be reflected in your work, making all of your portraits, outdoors or indoors, stunning and full of meaning.
One of the most important elements of photography is, of course, light. If you like taking photos outdoors, one of the challenges you will face is that you can’t adjust the light sources so much. The sun and street lights can’t be moved, so you need to find the way to make their light work for you. Sunlight is also influenced by the time. For example, if it is high noon our light is coming from right above us and it is a very hard light. But if we are taking a photo at sunrise or sunset, the light will come at an angle. Light intensity also varies between sunny days and when the sky is hazy, foggy or cloudy.
Light variance allows us to take spectacular and diverse photos. However, sometimes we want to have a bit more control over the lighting. One of the simplest and most efficient means to do it is by using a reflector.
What is a reflector?
In my opinion, the best photography equipment that I ever got is my reflector. It took me several years into photography to get one. I guess that I always saw reflectors as something that only professionals use. In fact, reflectors are one of the most affordable pieces of equipment a photographer can have. Mine have cost me around 14 euros in Amazon.
A reflector is basically a surface which redirects the light towards a desired subject. You can even make one yourself with a cardboard and aluminum foil. There are many variations and kinds of reflectors available on the market. The most common and affordable ones are the collapsible round reflectors with multiple colors. They consist of a foldable frame with a translucent cloth stretched over them. These frames come with a reversible envelope which offers four different surfaces (usually white, silver, gold and black). Don’t repeat my mistake, get (or make) yourself a reflector soon. You will see how easily your images improve.
How to use a reflector
Using a reflector, you can bring in light from additional angles and lighten shadows. In other words, you use them to change the direction of the light sources in order to add light to dark areas that make your image look bad. Using a reflector is very similar to what we did when we were kids and we played with the light beams from mirrors, but in a more delicate way.
A common use of the reflector is for portrait photography in the middle of the day, when the light is coming from above the model’s head. In this situation, the model’s face will be full of shadows and hard lights. In addition, the eyebrows cast a shadow under the eyes, making him/her look a bit like a raccoon. By using our reflector, we can bring light from a lower angle and lighten the model’s face, this way we avoid the “raccoon effect”.
You can set the reflector on a stand or hold by yourself. However if you are holding the camera it can get really complicated. You can also ask an assistant or a friend to hold it. Another option is that your model holds it. A good option is to let your model sit and put the reflector on top of his/her knees. In some situations you might need to use your imagination and have the reflector standing on walls, cars, columns or even lying on the floor. Don’t be shy and try different options until you get the results you want. This is part of the fun of a photo session!!
Gold and silver sides of the reflector
Keep in mind that both the silver and the gold colors are metallic and reflect a lot of light. For that reason they should be used from a certain distance (that will vary according to light conditions). If you are using it to reflect light on a person or animal, it might be even blinding. Take care and if you need it, ask the model to close the eyes until you adjust the light reflection to an intensity that will be comfortable for him/her.
As the silver side reflects the light without softening it, besides being a good option for greater distances, it is also great for weaker lighting conditions. Silver is also a good one to start getting used to reflectors because you can see the effect very vividly, making your life easier at the beginning.
The gold is very much like the silver except that it is giving the reflected light a warm yellow shade, similar to the golden hour light. It can be great for emphasizing sun tan, or if you want to bring out a certain color in the photo. But take care, because the yellow light can be overpowering.
White side of the reflector
The white side reflects a very soft and delicate light, you need to place it very close to your subject in order for it to have an effect and it won’t work if the lighting is bad (like at dusk, or if it is cloudy), but the result will be a very warm and soft photo, which is great for portraits (family, children, pregnancy photos, flowers).
Black side of the reflector
Finally, a reflector can be used as a light blocker too. If you have a light coming from an undesired direction. For example, if you have light reflecting from a window, you can reduce the reflecting light by placing the reflector with the black side towards your subject.
Using the reflector’s frame as diffuser
Besides reflecting the light, the reflector’s frame (the one with a semi opaque cloth) can be used as a diffuser. Diffusers soften the light coming directly from a light source and make the shadows less hard..
I want to thank my friends Inna and Nita for being my models and also my nephew for letting me use Porky to illustrate this article. Now that you have the basic information about reflectors, it is time to grab yours and start experimenting with it!
Have you ever been excited for a bright, sunny day to plan a portrait session only to find harsh lights, extreme shadows, and unflattering lighting? There’s a big misconception about the best time of day to shoot and what kind of weather to hope for. And it may not be what you’re expecting.
Shooting in the Afternoon
Between the hours of 10am and 4pm, depending on the time of year, the sun is at its highest points in the sky. This means your light source will be coming from one of three places:
1. Behind your subject, causing your background to be extremely bright and the subject to be dark
2. Above your subject, which will cast harsh and unattractive shadows on their face
3. Or in front of your subject, making them squint their eyes and scrunch up their face
If you want to make shooting in direct sunlight work, there are a few extra pieces of equipment you can carry with you. You can bring a reflector onto the field, which will allow you to fill in harsh shadows. This works by bouncing light back onto the subject and can give a more overall light. Another option is to use a fill in flash. Your camera may be equipped with a flash but you will get better results from an off-camera flash.
The best way to make shooting in direct sunlight work if there is no other option is to expose for the face and keep the sun behind the subject. This may mean your background is blown out but the most important part of the photo, the face, can be properly seen. You can also try shooting from different angles instead of straight on. Kneel down and shoot up or climb up high and shoot down.
However, if your subject is willing to move, there is a better option.
Shooting in the Shade
During your time as a photographer, you will hear the terminology “diffused light” coming up again and again. Diffused light is a soft light that spreads evenly across your entire subject. This does away with any harsh shadows or highlights and has an overall flattering look. When shooting outdoors, you don’t always have the luxury of controlling the light. Many times, the last thing you want to do is haul a bunch of gear out into the field. This is when shade can be your best friend.
The tricky part to shooting in the shade can be getting the correct exposure. Your subject is now in a darker area so your exposure will have to be brought up. You can achieve this by opening your lens aperture (opening it up is the equivalent to smaller numbers) or slowing your shutter speed down. Another option is to shoot in Auto mode and allow the camera to determine the appropriate exposure.
Depending on where your subject is positioned in the shade, you may find your background getting overexposed or blown out. You can fix this by changing your position so that the background behind your subject is equally in the shade or allowing the bright background to be a creative addition. It can add highlights to the hair or a nice edge glow behind the subject.
Best Times for Shooting
The best times of the day to plan your portrait shoots are actually early morning and late evening. These times of the day are referred to as the “golden hour”. The exact times will depend on the current season as it impacts the position of the sun. Ideally what you’re looking for is the sun to be low in the horizon.
During this time of the day you will have the most flexibility for subject vs sun position and also creative lighting. With the sun behind you and in front of your subject, they will be cast in a warm tone and the low horizon light will reduce squinting. Or, you can try positioning your subject with the sun behind them to create an outer glow.
Remember, the best time to shoot is when the light is diffused or low on the horizon. Try to plan for cloudy days or dusk hours. If you’re stuck in the direct sunlight, look for some shade to move your subject into. All is not lost however if you’re out on an afternoon with no clouds in sight. You can shoot into the sun by putting the sun behind your subject, expose for their face, and try to adjust the angle that you’re shooting from to reduce harsh lights and shadows.
I did a degree in Biology because I am in love with the environment. I needed to study plant and animal physiology, ecology, genetics… I was always surprised about the complexity of life. As living beings, we are made by infinity of diverse molecules, each one with a specific function. Millions of chemical reactions are happening all the time to keep us alive. We interact with other living beings because we are all connected somehow by complex ecological networks. It is kind of a miracle that all these things are going on (and they actually work!!) without us even realizing. Nature is wise.
My fascination for Mother Nature combine perfectly with photography. I love taking photos of living beings such as trees, plants, flowers or animals. I do it all the time. Sometimes I go in trips to wonderful mountains, the desert or to the forests. These are all places that we usually recognize as natural. However, I don’t have the ability for travelling all the time. I work in a laboratory and I need to stay around it in order to accomplish my duties. Does this fact stop me from taking nature photography? Not at all. Because in my opinion, nature is not sitting only in faraway places. I am not the only one thinking that way. Emma Marris (environmental writer and reporter) redefines nature saying that it should not just be about pristine wilderness but also about the untended patches of plants growing in urban spaces. So here you have it. Nature is next to us, even if we live in a city. Keep reading and I will give you some tips for finding nature photography opportunities next you your place.
Become a nature hunter
Do you think that your city is way to grey and full of cement? I am sure you are right. But I am almost sure that if you change your perspective about the place you will able to find some nature around you. Are there trees in the streets? Does your neighbor have some plants in the balcony? Is there any park nearby? Go out and try to look at the city with a new perspective. Become a nature hunter. You will find something. I will explain to you something that happens to me quite often: when I go out for a walk with some friends, I am always pointing out nature-related things. I ask them: “Have you seen this tree? And this flower? What about that cat?” The most part of the times their answer is “No, I didn’t notice them”. It is a matter of perspective. If you put your attention into nature, you will find nature.
Think in seasons: what can you find each time?
Nature is everywhere, but this doesn’t means that it always keeps the same. Nature follows the rhythm of the seasons. Each season you will find different things. Knowing what is it possible to find and when will be very helpful and will save you some disappointments.
Part of the beauty of season is that they are completely different between them. For example, autumn is a good time to take photos of fallen leaves. They are quite photogenic.
Focus in the small
When we look at huge buildings or roads we might get discouraged. But don’t worry!! Here we are not talking about landscape photography. Instead of looking at the big picture, try to look into the details. Are there any plants or trees? Maybe there is a flower hidden somewhere. You need to get close. If you like macro photography, go for it! But you don’t need it. I take my photos without going into macro lens and it works well for me.
Keep it playful
Remember to have fun. When you are enjoying an activity you have more chances of success. I am always happy when I find nature in the middle of the city mess.
I hope I encourage you to try some nature photos in your city! I will be happy to know about your experiences. Feel free to share with me any suggestion about this type of nature photography! Have a happy shooting!!
According to Wikipedia a photo walk is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting. For me a photo walk is much more than just walking and taking photos. I see it as a way of improving your photographic skills. Photo walks are commonly considered group activities. The groups might be formed by amateur photographers that organize themselves or they might be also activities offered by a professional that set some guidelines and teach along the walks. Although I like the idea of group photo walks, I didn’t have the chance to do it yet. I hope I’d get the chance to do it in the near future. For now I have a less communal approach: either I go by myself, or with a friend. In group or alone, I highly recommend you to try photo walks.
Theme photo walks help you develop your creativity
Choosing a theme for a photo walk is an interesting thing to do. You can choose any subject such as shapes (triangles, circles…), colors (yellow, blue..), numbers or things (windows, doors, traffic signs…). If that day I am unable to decide a subject, I just ask somebody to tell me either a color, or a shape. And whatever they say I do. I saw that this helps me to develop my creativity because it forces me to take photos of things that I wouldn’t choose by myself. Trying to take nice photos of things that you don’t find attractive at first sight might push you out of your common thinking box.
Photo walks help you to improve your composition
You can pick a composition subject and focus on it in your photo walk. You can work on finding leading lines, look for patterns, rule of thirds, symmetry… Practicing composition when you are enjoying a relaxed photo walk will take you to the point that you can create well composed images even under stress (as for example in the middle of a portrait photo session).
Photo walks give you the chance to experiment with new things
Have you been reading about a new photography technique that you would like to try? Go on a photo walk focusing on that technique and you could see how you get better at it along the walk. You can try night photography, macro,HDR, long exposure photography…
Photo walks help you to find your photographic style
I learnt this from the photographer Marlene Hielema. When you photowalk, you don’t have to focus on the technical aspects of photography. You don’t have to take perfect photos. You can even set the camera on program mode (I know it can be hard to do it, but give it a try). What can you do if you don’t need to take care about the technicalities? You are left with just the creative side of photography. Focus on the way you see things. Once you return home, check the results of your walk. Pick the photos that show better what you wanted to express and analyze them. Do they follow a pattern? Finding these patterns will help you to understand your style.
Photo walks are a great way of networking
If you are going in a group photo walk you will have the chance to meet new people. If you are going alone, you will have the chance to talk with the people you are taking photos of, and you will probably meet a few curious people who would want to know what you are doing. You can interchange details with these people (phone number, social media) and share your photo walk images with them.
Photo walks might improve your mood
A photo walk is a physical activity done outdoors (sometimes even in the sunlight and the fresh air!). Walking is good for your health and being outside will bring refresh your mind.
And finally some tips:
Take only the essentials
You will be walking for a while, so if you carry a lot of gear and other stuff it will become heavy and will make the photo walk a not so nice experience. Be brave and take just one lens. Take out unnecessary things from your camera bag.
I do recommend to take with you water (and maybe a hat and sunglasses) and a small snack, just in case your walk turns a bit longer then you expected.
When you are focused on taking pictures you can disconnect a little from the surroundings. But you should keep all the time a certain amount of awareness. Don’t walk into the road without looking for coming cars. Don’t walk into other pedestrians. If you are in a place with a lot of people, keep an eye out for possible thieves. If you are going alone on a photo walk, tell somebody where you are going and for how long. Although a photo walk can also be a great chance to disconnect for a while, evaluate the area you are going to be at before leaving the phone behind, on long walks, walks in the wild, or in unfamiliar neighborhoods, it might be better to have your phone with you (just in case).
Be respectful (with people and with the law)
If you are taking photos of people, it is important that you keep a respectful attitude. Remember that it is nice to ask people for permission to take their portrait (it is also an opportunity to meet new people). Depending in which places, you must do it. For that reason it is always good to know the laws regarding photographer’s right (They change in every country). You should know beforehand what you are allowed and not allowed to do with your camera. It can save you a lot of problems.
Sit from time to time
I know that the activity is called photo walk, but you can also sit from time to time to rest. Sitting is also good for observing. You can study the place where you are and take other kind of photos.
Do you like photo walks? Have you ever tried them? Are you going alone or with a group? Share your experiences with us, we would like to hear form you! 🙂
Imagine you’re standing at Glacier Point, shooting the beautiful morning sun as it rises behind Half Dome. Sipping on hot chocolate, you adjust your settings accordingly to the flooding light. The air is wet and there’s a faint vanilla scent from the surrounding Jeffrey Pines. You screw in your Graduated Neutral Density filter and take a couple shots. The sun is rising slow and you are in no rush, savoring each moment you have, just you and the camera this morning. Nothing else matters.
Compare this to someone who ran up, took a shot, and then ran back to their computer for post-processing. They don’t care about crafting the perfect image in the camera, they know they can fix it in post. No hot chocolate for them, no smell of the Jeffrey Pines. No memories other than the photograph.
Where would you rather spend your time? Perfecting the image in camera on location, or spending the majority of your time behind a computer trying to fix the image in post? This answer should not be difficult. What draws photographers to landscape photography is the promise of long afternoons hiking up to the perfect spot and setting up the camera, the sole focus for the next few hours is to get the shot, nothing more.
To ensure you can maintain this lifestyle, you will need a couple accessories in your camera bag. While you can find lists of up to 30 must have accessories, you really just need a few essentials to get started, the rest is up to your creative vision. You cannot buy that, nor can you buy experience. So get out there!
Landscape Photography Filters
A polarizing filter is great for stopping down the entire image. It will reduce glare from reflective surfaces, like water or even from leaves, by stopping down up to 3 stops, depending on which filter you purchase. A polarizing filter will also help to increase saturation in an image. While you may think these are easily replicable in post-processing, there are certain aspects of reducing glare that will be difficult to adjust in Lightroom, requiring more advanced knowledge of the program.
Neutral Density Filter
While you may be able to get away with not carrying a polarizing filter in your bag, a neutral density filter is a must. These filters are offered anywhere from 3-10 stops on average. What’s great about a neutral density filter is it’s ability to block out light, which will allow you to adjust one or more of you camera settings to more of an extreme. You can see this in an image of a waterfall or river, where the water is blurred, the result of a long exposure. The neutral density filter allowed for the slow shutter speed, while still maintaining proper exposure in the image. This is something you could not achieve in post-processing.
Graduated Neutral Density Filter
A graduated neutral density filter works in much the same way as a neutral density filter, but as the name suggests, the filter intensity fades from one end to the other. The purpose of this is for scenes where the sky is too bright when exposed for the landscape. We’ve all seen images like this, where the sky is blown out. Just having a graduated neutral density filter can make the difference between an ok and mind-blowing landscape photograph. While this can be applied in post processing as well, getting it right in camera will ensure the most natural looking image, while allowing for more time in the field and less at your computer. Where would you rather process your image? In front of a beautiful landscape or inside on your computer. Again, not a hard choice to make.
Other Must-Have Accessories
An essential accessory for landscape photography, a tripod will allow for those beautiful long exposure shots of star trails and blurred waterfalls. Even if you are shooting a classic landscape image, a tripod is essential to have, in case exposure requires a slow shutter speed. This will happen often, when you want the entire sweeping landscape in focus. The wide aperture requires a slower shutter speed, and increasing ISO introduces more noise into the image. When shooting blurred water to create a dreamy landscape, you’ll need to pair your neutral density filter with a tripod, otherwise there’s no way to achieve this look. When deciding which tripod to get, first confirm what you need. Does it need to be lightweight? Will it get wet? Does it need to hold up heavy lenses? Once you know what you are looking for, then you can narrow down your options and decide which to buy based on price point. There are options at every price point now.
Remote Shutter Release
Pairing well with a tripod, a remote shutter release will ensure there is no camera shake when taking long exposures. Even with a camera on a tripod, the act of pressing the shutter can cause unwanted blur. Remove shutter releases are inexpensive and small, not taking up much space in your bag. It really adds no extra bulk to carry one along with you, you’ll be happy to have it. It could even force you to become more creative with your shooting, trying multiple long exposure options where you normally would shoot handheld. It could add a new dimension to your photography.
While there are more accessories you can carry in your landscape photography, these are the essentials. Don’t get bogged down thinking you need a ton of gear just to get a good image. You can take beautiful photographs without even using the above. The most important is to get out there with what you have and start shooting. Buying more accessories will not make you a better photographer if you don’t know your camera. As your skills grow, so too can your equipment, but for now, keep it simple and enjoy the journey.
I always thought that cats are fascinating animals. These little felines have such a strong personality that I can’t do anything else but admire them. However, I never had the chance of having a cat as a pet. I really wanted one when I was a little girl. My mom always said that cats are beautiful animals…from a far! So as you can guess, she was not inclined to share our place with one of them. Four years ago I moved to Israel. Even today I am still surprised by the amount of street cats that you can find here. There are some that even adopt you as “their human” and come every day to check on you and see if you can give them some food. I started to take photos of them. I really love these little wild animals. Today I want to share with you some of the things I learned about street cat photography.
Have your camera always ready
Street cats are not going to wait for you to take the camera out of your bag and adjust the settings. I missed a lot of shots because I was not ready. Although you think you are fast, you won’t be faster than them. Remember that after all, these little guys are felines! Which are the best settings? You will usually need to use a fast shutter speed. So in order to get photos with enough light (not too dark) you will need to adjust the aperture and the ISO.
Don’t use the flash
I am almost certain that if you use the flash to take a photo of a cat he will be so scared that he will run away and maybe he won’t come close to you in a while.
Increase your ISO if needed
I prefer to take cat photos with low ISO (100-200) because then I avoid noise that can distract the viewer’s attention from the animal. However, if in order to take a photo I need to choose between increasing ISO and decreasing shutter speed, I don’t think twice: I increase the ISO. I have been working a lot of years with a camera that doesn’t handle well high ISOs, but even then it was better to have a picture with noise than a totally blurry photo. Good news for cat lovers: new cameras handle pretty well high ISO values. You can check at which ISO you start having noise with your camera. You can do it shooting at a black surface and comparing the results using different ISOs. Once you know your ISO threshold, try to keep under it. But I wouldn’t obsess with it. If you need it: increase the ISO. Also keep in mind that you can decrease some of the noise in post-processing.
Get to know them
After a while living in Israel I started recognizing all the street cats of the neighborhood. Cats are quite territorial, so they like to be inside the borders of what they consider “mine”. If you pay attention, after a couple of weeks you will realize that you always meet the same cats. From time to time you see a new one, but the main group keeps the same week after week. Each cat has his own personality. Knowing them well will help you to take decisions about the lenses you need or how to approach them. For example, some of them are bossy. These guys are usually bigger than the others. They are quite self-confident so they don’t run away so easily. For them you don’t need a tele-lens, but you will need something more than 50mm because they won’t allow you to get too close (around 100mm should be fine). Remember, they think that you are a simple human under their mandate. They could attack you if you get too close. Others are fearful and the closest you can get to them is 50m. You will need a lens that will allow you to zoom from far because they will run away as soon as they see you. Others are a bit more naive and you can get really close to them. With them you can use a 50mm or even a 35mm.
Study their habits
The most part of the cats have habits. They have a favorite place to sleep, they visit a garden at certain time of the day, they go to the house of that neighbor to eat second breakfast… when you recognize a pattern, you can anticipate there moves and be ready to shoot. You can even hide somewhere as if you were a National Geographic photographer (I love doing this, I always have a lot of fun!!)
Be patient and don’t get mad at them
You can’t tell cats to pose or do what you want, so be patient with them. You will probably need to take a lot of pictures before you get one you like. Keep your mind open. Maybe the cat is not doing what you expected, but probably it will do something good. Or maybe he will run away and leave you frustrated and wanting… If this happens, just accept it. Don’t get mad at the cat. You will have more chances in the future.
Take advantage of the fact that cats are curious
Cats are curious by nature. And this is good for photography. Some of them are already curious for the noise that the DSRL’s mirror does when you shoot. You take a photo of them and they just stare at you as if wondering “What is this noise?”. This is your chance to take a good picture. Other cats need a bit more. But usually if you play with something in front of them or if you make some subtle noise they will look at whatever you are doing.
Focus on their eyes
When we are looking at a photo we usually pay attention to the eyes, so try to keep them sharp.
Do you have any experience photographing street cats? Tell me how it was and if you tried some of these tips. I would love to know about your experiences! Have a happy shooting!!
Shooting portraits in a studio can be great, but outdoor portaiture with natural light is just better. The problem is that when you try and take photos outside, the light doesn’t always cooperate, and you need to take matters into your own hands. This is where something like a mini softbox can really help you out when you need it.
A softbox is just a small light, used primarily in studios, but which can be adapted for use outside. The mini variety tends to be best in this regard since it is easy to transport around.
When you can control the lighting of the outdoors with a mini softbox, you can drastically change how your photos look. Subjects can really stand out, while also getting the natural setting around them. It is the best of both worlds. You have the studio and the outdoors, together in perfect harmony.
So, why use a mini softbox for this? Why not use some other type of lighting? Why not use umbrella lights? There are several reasons why a mini softbox is just best for this situation.
The biggest advantage is the fact that these boxes are small and highly portable. You don’t need to haul your studio around, you just need to take a small box with you and you will get all the light you need. You can also use a light shaping tool to get the lighting that you want in your portraits outside. You can add definition through the use of shadows, or remove shadows to create a clean and elegant look on the subject.
Why Not Regular Softboxes?
You may be asking why you can’t just use a regular-sized softbox, the type you use in the studio. After all, it is not like they are huge or anything. Well, you get all the features of the regular softbox, in a mini softbox, but without the extra space. So, there is no reason to add extra work for yourself in lugging around a large softbox.
How to Do It
Now that you know you should use a mini softbox, how do you go about using it? It is actually very easy to use. The main thing to remember is that as you move the subject around for the photos, you may have to change the lighting depending on cloud cover, the position of the sun and more. This will allow you to get the right light for your subject with the softbox.
Don’t be afraid to try out multiple locations for your shoot as well. The light is going to be different everywhere and you may find a great spot for your photos just by random. Most mini softboxes run on batteries since you won’t be located near an outlet. Make sure that you always have batteries on hand so you don’t lose your lighting opportunities with the softbox.
Use the Attachments
When you are taking your mini softbox out, make sure you use your attachments to get the most out of the mini softbox. There are many attachments that will be useful to you depending on the lighting conditions outside, and the needs you have as a photographer. These attachments, like diffusers, can be carried around easily by you and often come as part of the mini softbox. These diffusers will create many lighting effects for you, from creating very soft light to compliment the sunlight, or sharper and more focused light to create the shadows that you want.
One of the best types of diffusers to keep in mind is the gold-banded diffuser. This diffuser attaches with Velcro to the softbox itself and creates really beautiful and warm images in the outdoors. It can work great if you want a natural look on the subject but don’t want to add too much light. It is also very effective at creating the golden hour light, where the sun is setting.
As a photographer, you want to get the most out of your photos, your light, and your subjects. You can leave everything to chance and allow Mother Nature to dictate the lighting, but what if it is a cloudy day and you want golden light on the subject? If that is the case, then you need to take matters into your own hands and get a mini softbox. It is highly portable. It is easy to use, and it will ensure that you get the most out of your pictures.
For incredible portraits, you should always take things one extra step. Mother Nature can be great for her lighting, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of a helping hand from technology. The mini softbox can do that for you.
It’s very common among the professional Canon users to grab our 70-200mm lens for indoor as well as for outdoor shoots. The lens is one of the top choices for portraits and product photography due to its versatility and interesting zoom range.
Speaking of this versatile and powerful Canon lens, we can start to say that it was launched in 2010 as an update of the EF 70 – 200 mm F2.8 L IS USM from 2001. With a gap of 9 years and considering the advances in the technology of DSLR cameras, Canon redesigns this powerhouse by improving both the stabilization and optics, as well as autofocus and its design.
Optics consists of 23 elements in 19 groups, including more than 5 of them with the Ultra-Low Dispersion technology (UD), plus one with Fluorite Coating. The reason? Reducing the Chromatic Aberration of the lens.
Built-in metal, we are not talking about a light lens; however, it compensates for the weight with its excellent image quality and enhanced protection in regards to dust that can enter our camera, in addition to being weather sealed.
The Autofocus motor belongs to the technology of Canon Ultrasonic Motor (USM), being extremely agile while maintaining a silent profile.
The price is something to consider in this lens since we are talking about high-end equipment for what should not amaze us that its initial price is higher than $1500.
The only difficulty that photographers face while using the lens is its weight. A Canon 70-200mm [ f 2.8 IS II ] lens weighs approximately 1600 gms. So, this lens when mounted on a full-frame camera like Canon 5D Mark III weighs almost 2.5 kilograms.
When weight matters
So, how do you take a sharp photograph while holding so much weight in your hand? You might use a tripod to bring in the extra support, balance, and stability. But do tripods work during all circumstances? Not really. How far does ‘Image Stabilisation’ in your lens, help? Not very much. True, it provides the minor stabilization features that you need and but that’s not all.
The way you hold your lens plays a major role. It can sometimes be the ‘break-it’ or ‘make-it’ factor for your photographs.
We are assuming here that you will be using the kit (Canon 5D MK III + Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens) handheld and not by tripod mounted. The first thing to do is to rotate the tripod collar from the bottom side of the lens(while mounted with the camera) towards the top side. This way, the tripod collar won’t obtrude and disturb your grip with the lens.
Kindly note: Indoor shoots are tripod-mounted most of the time. So this article may not be applicable to you. But for those who shoot by hand-held devices, this article might be helpful.
A quick but effective solution
So, like I mentioned earlier, the way you hold the lens while shooting may affect your photograph, for good or for worse. Most of the time, we tend to hold the lens somewhere on its collar ( really close to the body of the camera). I used to do this too in my earlier days as a photographer. This helps us control the zoom ring better while composing the photograph. True, but it also indirectly affects the balance in your focus. This sometimes results in blurred images and lesser sharpness. This is because of improper positioning of your palm by the lens. By supporting the lens at the collar location by your palm you are letting more weight towards the front side of the lens which leads to improper balance and with blurred photographs.This can be overcome by slightly shifting your palm position towards the front side of the lens, which means you need to place your palm almost on the zoom ring. As soon as you shift your palm towards the front end of the lens, you immediately feel the perfect balance of weight while holding. But this situation restricts the zooming ability immediately before you press the shutter button. You have to be prepared in advance, as you cannot zoom as you used to before. Get your frame right, compose what you need and then click away!
Sometime in the previous century, I was finishing up a 270-mile backpacking trip along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in California. I was dirty, a little skinny and definitely ready for my close-up. Just as I was traversing along a mountain slope with the morning light in the perfect position to highlight what a greasy mess 15 days on the trail will do to one, I met some day hikers. I asked them to take a picture of me and though they seemed to not understand why I would want such a thing, they obliged.
Given this was the semi-crude days of film, I didn’t see the portrait in grime until the roll had been processed. The person who took the photo had placed my head dead center in the shot. There was nothing but sky behind me instead of the mountain scene. My grungy jeans were cropped off as was the trail itself. A potentially wonderful, story-telling moment—at least to me—was lost.
From then on, I decided I would be responsible for my own self-portraits as they were known back then. Or, so as not to take myself too seriously, I now call them selfies like everyone else.
However, my idea of a selfie isn’t mugging the camera with a maniacal grin. We can do better than that.
For me, a selfie is a sometimes artful record of somewhere I’ve been or something I’ve done. It includes some context or maybe even shows a little action. I might be alone in the shot or with someone, often my wife. My kind of selfie has a candid quality to it that doesn’t even look in most cases like I took it myself. Very often, it only takes a few minutes to do.
So let’s start with a common situation for me. I’m hiking alone in the mountains and come across a beautiful view from atop a ridge. This shot has potential, but it’s missing something, a storytelling element. It needs a model and I happen to have one: me! So I shrug off my pack and pull out a tripod. A small one, mind you. Just hefty enough to hold my camera.
I know, I know. A lot of people hate tripods, especially if they have to carry them any distance. But having those legs are absolutely necessary to precisely compose the shot. After all, have you ever tried to balance a camera on, say, a rock or fence? Too often, you’re composing based on the shape of whatever you’re using for support instead of getting the picture you really want.
So after I whine to myself about having to take the time to extend the tripod legs and attach the camera—true confession: I hate carrying tripods, too—I connect to the camera the second most important selfie tool, a wireless remote. True, just about all cameras include a self-timer but I really detest having to set it and then rush to get into position before the time is up. So I use the Vello ShutterBoss II. It has a claimed range of 250’—I’ve gone as far as about a 100 feet and it worked like a champ—and allows me to take multiple pictures at whatever interval suits me.
It comes in two pieces. There’s the receiver that attaches to the camera’s hotshoe with a cord for my Canon three-pin connection (it’s also compatible with several other brands). The other half is a transmitter I take with me to activate the camera. (Some cameras allow you to remotely take pictures with an app and smart camera, so check your options.)
In this particular scenario, I compose the picture to highlight the story I want to tell. I try to keep it simple. In this case, I just want to be hiking through the foreground with the wilderness scene behind me. Other times, my role as the model might be more static where I just supply a human element for the scene. However, I find just standing there often makes for a boring shot so I prefer to be doing something.
There are many issues to consider as I go about this. Here they are:
Where do you want to be in the frame? I usually fall back on the law of thirds to keep it easy and put myself in a lower corner with the scene behind me. If I’m walking, I want to be entering the scene. If I’m standing still, I want to be facing the main part of the scene from the side of the frame.
What’s in the background? You don’t want to block an important element. Also, look for such pitfalls as trees or poles that potentially could spring out of the top of your head.
What’s the direction of the light? Generally speaking, you want the light source on your face. Make sure you’re not standing in a shadow when the rest of the scene is brightly lit.
What are you going to do in the shot? Moving? Standing still? Fiddling with something? Or just smiling at the camera? Plan ahead so you don’t come away with an indecisive look on your face. Know the story you want to tell, no matter how simple it might be.
Know where you want to be in the actual scene. That sounds obvious, right? But everything looks a little different from where the camera is opposed to when you place yourself in the scene. Look for some object in the viewfinder that’s close to the position you want to be in. Maybe it’s a distinctive rock, lamppost or crack on the pavement.
This is really the simplest of all super selfies, but it does tell a brief story about my solo trip on the Pacific Crest Trail through the High Sierras.
Take a moment to visualize yourself in the picture and how your presence contributes to the overall composition. Be prepared to reshoot if your imagination isn’t accurate.
I like to set the remote so it shoots after a three or four-second delay. That gives me time to stash away the transmitter in a pocket so I’m not pointing it at the camera when it starts taking pictures. This also adds to the impression of the shot being totally candid or unposed.
How many shots do you want to take? Sounds odd, but say you’re walking through the scene. Set the remote to pop off 10 frames at one-second interval. You’ll have a lot more variations to choose from. Even if it’s a more static shot, take several pictures at a time, varying your pose slightly for each frame.
Pre-focus and then set the lens to manual focus. This prevents the camera from re-focusing on the wrong thing when you hit the remote. Choose something as near as possible to where you’ll be standing and focus on that. If you’re a little unsure, set a smaller aperture for greater depth of field so you’re more likely to be in focus.
Manually set the exposure. Again, this prevents the camera from making decisions you might not agree with once you’ve walked away from it. For added insurance, take a shot while you’re still at the camera and examine the LCD version for proper exposure and focus.
Consider your shutter speed. If it’s too slow, you might be blurred. Of course, you might want that to suggest movement, but if you’re just standing there you’ll usually want to be sharp. Increase the ISO for a faster shutter setting if necessary. For walking shots, aim for at least 1/250, for more static poses, at least 1/30.
Be careful where you place the tripod. It should be on solid ground. Trust me, you don’t want to helplessly watch your camera topple over when it’s 20 feet away. If it’s windy, hang a weighted bag from the tripod hook on the center post, or lower the legs so the entire assembly is a bit more stable. Also, when you walk away from the camera on your way to pose, be careful not to knock into it. (I’ve done that, too.)
If you’re doing this where there are people passing by, be sure no one can trip over the tripod.
Always check the pictures you’ve taken to make sure they are what you intended. Reshoot if necessary. If you have time, try different compositions.
More often than not, I’m traveling with my wife and we like to do what we call canoodling pictures. We’re not mugging the camera. We’re interacting with each other one way or another, seemingly oblivious to the fact we’re being photographed. For my money, they make for far better travel pictures because, again, they tell a story about our trip. Also, instead of only getting a limited shot of the surrounding scene, dependent on how long my arm is for holding the camera, I can compose so there’s greater context. That shot of us in front of the Eiffel Tower actually has the entire icon in the picture.
And, oh, one more thing: our faces aren’t distorted like you see in a typical selfie. If the composition requires it, I can use a long lens with us off in the distance.
Here are a few things to think about when doing a self-portrait with one or more others:
Pose the other person first. Set the focus on them.
Imagine yourself in the shot and determine if you’ll be in the same plane of focus as they are. If necessary, stop down the aperture for greater depth of field so you’ll both be in focus.
Beg, if necessary, for your selfie partner to ignore the camera and “act naturally.” Find something for them to do or have them interact with you. The nice thing about a wireless remote is you can always pop off pictures without getting up to reset the camera, which is distracting to the other person.
Make sure neither of you will be casting a shadow on the other’s face.
Always check the picture after it’s taken to be sure it worked as you envisioned it. My attitude is, we’ve traveled all this way, we might as well get great shots of ourselves, so take the extra time to do it right.
One variation of all of the above is do the selfie as a panoramic. This involves setting the camera in a vertical orientation on the tripod and taking all the pictures as you would normally do for a pano, overlapping each one by about a third, using manual exposure, focus and color temperature settings. Leave the last frame for you to be in the scene. Later, stitch the shots together with whatever software you prefer, choosing the best of the frames with you in it.
I have to admit that doing “super selfies” is a bit more challenging than simply extending a smartphone camera at arm’s length and firing away, but I’m convinced my selfies do more to record a special moment or scene.
Hope you guys liked this tutorial and before you ask, the header image happens to be a quick set up “super selfie” of my wife and me in a doorway on Avenue Junot in Paris during an early morning walk. I used a mechanical timer attached to a Bronica SQ-A medium format camera. See you next time!
The wonderful people at Sleeklens have invited me to share my thoughts and experiences as a freelance photographer working in London. I will endeavor to do this several times a month, and for my first correspondence, I thought I would introduce myself so you will hopefully get an idea of what I love about photography and how my life as a working photographer unfolds.
My name is Matt Writtle and I’ve been working professionally for over twenty years. I have been seen quite a lot of changes, from bulk loading Ilford HP5 film and shooting with an old Nikon FM2, to shooting most of my work now on a Leica M (240) digital. I prefer digital now, controversial I know, but I have never been the most patient of people and the majority of my work is to shoot portraits and features for newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and London Evening Standard.
To describe my work succinctly: I have to produce a studio quality portrait on location, in a venue I have never been to before, in less than thirty minutes.
Nearly all portrait shots are time allocated and controlled by the public relations officer or “PR” for the subject. Consequently, time is tight and closely monitored. I normally get fifteen minutes, thirty if I’m lucky, so preparation is key. The best way to prepare is to correspond with the PR in advance of the shoot, and then arrive early. Thirty to forty-five minutes before the shoot is a good amount of time to recce the venue, mostly hotel rooms, lobbies or a theater, and ascertain how much available light there is and what set up to use.
Budgets are tight, photographic assistants on newspaper shoots are rare, and as technology has advanced so has the demise of manpower, so, I have to travel alone with all my equipment on my back. I wheel it all around in Think Tank Airport Security V2.0 and additionally, I now carry a 22inch beauty dish in an extra large drum cymbals case on my back, very useful case and vastly cheaper than photographic equivalents. I look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle going on holiday!
My two main light attachments are the dish and a Photek Softlighter II 46 inch. Presently, I use the dish as my key light, and should I need any shadow fill I use the Softlighter II (brolly box). I have to be mindful not to have too much darkness and contrast in the image as newsprint doesn’t reproduce blacks very well. I also have to consider house style: newspapers don’t want their images to be too moody and gloomy.
War and Peace
On most shoots, I walk around the location and try to imagine how the subject will look in a scenario befitting of the angle of the interview. I tend to ask the PR to stand in for a light test. Exposure and mood created, I wait. Many people don’t consider how different each individual will look in the same light, and often, I have to modify the light to accommodate the star.
This was the case when I photographed actor Tom Burke (BBC’s War and Peace) recently for the Daily Telegraph. The shoot was at London’s Hampstead Theatre he was performing in, so, stairwell and lift lobbies were my backdrops. Ten minutes recce and he appeared. I keep things simple. The more complicated you try to make things, the more time you waste.
Set up one was at the top of some stairs with framed posters of previous actors who’ve starred at the theatre. I was thinking hall of fame and he was being inducted. Beauty dish key light, with a basic backlight to add mood and light the framed pictures.
Set up two was in a darkened lift lobby, but as Tom Burke is known for his brooding characters, I thought this quite fitting. Again, beauty dish key light, with a gentle amount of fill for shadows with the brolley box, all of which shot on my Leica M (240) with a 35mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.4 aspherical.
In addition to the technical, you have to get a famous or notorious person inside to produce the image you want. I would say it’s a challenging and tense situation. For those fifteen minutes, I channel my adrenaline, whilst being friendly and keeping the subject happy. At the same time, I make sure the image is focused, composed, exposed and the lighting suits the mood of the character, all while a PR is standing behind you counting down how much time you have left.
It can be frustrating, but only because you have unique access and often not enough time to do it justice. But when there is a connection, the shoot sparks into life and that’s when the magic happens.
This was apparent when I photographed the Austrian actress Susanne Wuest who starred in a horror film “Goodnight Mommy’ which has received critical acclaim. We met at her penthouse apartment at the old Arsenal FC football stadium, now flats. Having modelled before, I was optimistic the shoot would be successful. She was as enthusiastic as I and we connected on what we both wanted to achieve, which took place on her terrace against a beautiful blue early spring sky.
Set up one was just natural light shot on my Leica with a 35mm.
Set up two was on my Canon 5d mark III with a 24mm-70mm zoom. I metered for the natural light and then placed two Elinchrom Quadra heads, one with the beauty dish, one naked, at 45° angles to her and boom! I got my favourite shot.
Hope this guide has been useful for you as a brief panorama of how do we photographers suit our gear to match the different scenarios we may come across during our daily job. See you next time!
Have you ever desired to take a panoramic photograph and your camera doesn’t have the panorama feature? Do you want to do panoramas without switching to Photoshop or other specialized software? Have you forgotten to take your wide angle lens with you on your vacation? Do not give up on the amazing scenery that is in front of you. Following this tutorial, all you will have to do is photograph some parts of the scene and the software will process your images to produce a panoramic image within Lightroom CC (2015).For those who are not familiar with Panoramic Photography, it is a technique of photography that captures a series of images using a photographic camera and aligns them all together, to make a single photograph with a wider aspect ratio than a commonly used photograph.
Before Lightroom CC (2015) came out, in order to stitch together multiple images, you needed to switch between Photoshop or use other specialized software. Even though there are some cameras that have the panorama feature built into them, but most professional DSLR cameras do not.
Recently, after the latest update, you can create your panorama images inside Lightroom CC itself. The best part is that after the software process all the images, it will create a brand new seamlessly stitched RAW file from the images without rendering the images in pixels, with this new raw file, you will be able to retouch the panorama preset in Lightroom as you would any other image. So, you have to know first how to install Lightroom preset and once it has been installed, you can now create your panorama images inside the Lightroom CC.
Panorama is a feature that has been missing for a long time in the software. In order to create breathtaking panoramas, just follow the simple steps below.
Step 1 – Take multiple shots with your camera
With your digital camera take multiple pictures from left to right or from bottom to top, depending on the scenery you have chosen.
After the first shot is taken, while shooting the subsequent photos, make sure to get a little bit of the scene of the previous image so that Lightroom has data to render them together.
If you are using a DSLR or a camera that can manually change its settings, do not change the aperture of the camera. For example, if you use an aperture opening of F11 make sure you use it in every single shot.
I did not use a tripod to shot the images used in this tutorial, although it is not crucial, the use of a tripod is recommended.
Step 2- Import your images into Lightroom
Import the images that you have photographed.
File/Import Photos and Video
Step 3 – Select the images
Select all the images that will be used. Shift+click the first image and click on the last image in order to select all the images.
If your images are not in sequence, (cmd+click on the mac or ctrl+click on the PC) on each image to select them.
There is no need to adjust your images on the Develop Module at this stage. We will do it afterward, on the final image.
Step 4 – Merge the images
After selecting the images, go ahead and merge them together.
Photo / Photo Merge / Panorama (cmd+M on the Mac or ctrl+M on the PC)
Panorama Merge Preview box will appear.
Auto Select Projection: Lightroom will choose automatically which projection fits better.
Spherical: The images will be aligned and transformed as they were inside a sphere. Best for wider or multi row panoramas.
Perspective: The images will be aligned and transformed as they were mapped to a flat dimension. Best for architectural photography.
Cylindrical: The images will be aligned and transformed as they were inside a cylinder. Best for wide panoramas, but with straight lines.
Auto Crop: The white edges will automatically be cropped. You can also crop it later on even crop it inside Photoshop, that way you can recover these white areas.
click Merge after the best settings are chosen.
After that, Lightroom will render all the images together. Depending on your machine it may take some time to do the renderings.
Step 5 – Adjust the final stitched image
The neat thing is that Lightroom creates a brand new RAW file, that means that you will end up with the maximum capability to edit your image.
Select the new file and adjust it on the Develop Module as you would normally do in any other image.