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Landscape photography

17 Feb

Landscape photography is the most captured type of images. The reason is simple, the beauty of nature is always in front of us and you don’t need to pose or make the landscape comfortable to properly achieve results. There is many type of landscape photography, abstract, minimalist, impressionistic and more.

Landscape photography is better captured 30 minutes prior to sunrise until 90 minutes after sunrise and also 2 hours before sunset to 30 minutes after sunset.

TOOLS

When achieving magnificent landscape photography, some tools will be required.

  • Filters: Circular polarise filter is perfect for landscape to add and control density in the greens, blues and reds. It will also make it possible to control reflection off water, snow and sand. The Density neutral filter will allow for a longer photography exposure to show movement into the landscape mostly with water and sky. 
  • Tripod: A good, steady and light tripod is recommended. You will only buy a tripod once if you purchase the right one. Take you time and be ready to invest more then you planned…carbon fiber is expensive. Think about your style of photography to properly select the head of your tripod.
  • Remote shutter: A remote shutter will save you from camera shake. When pressing the shutter, a vibration will be create on your camera body which will give you a little softness. If your are interested in timelapse photography, invest in the remote with intervalometer.

Various lenses can be used to photograph landscape, from a wide angle to a super telephoto. Don’t think that a focal length has only one use. Be creative, have fun and shoot something different.

TIPS:

  1. Think about your depth of field. What do you want to show.
  2. Think about a focal point.
  3. Think foregrounds. They can make your picture look totally different.
  4. Use lines to show your landscape. They can bring your eye to your main subject.
  5. Think about your horizon. It needs to be straight.

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Portrait photography

6 Jan

Portrait photography can be so much fun but can also be the biggest pain. It’s fun to create moody, artistic and representative images of ones personality. My main objective with portrait photography is to capture the essence of someone while making them look beautiful.

Know your subject

In portraiture, take the 10-15 minutes to discuss with your subject instead of shooting right away. You need to make them feel comfortable. Your confidence will make them confident and more at ease. Talking with your subject will transport them into another frame of mind. Find out what there passions are, talk to them about that. This is where general knowledge will help you to have proper communication with the person in front of you!

Relax, enjoy and make it fun!

Your confidence will also affect your subjects energy. Have you ever noticed how one bad coworker can ruin the mood in a lunch room? The same can happen with portrait photography. You need to have energy, positive reinforcement for the subject and the confidence of achieving the desired look. You can relax because most portraiture session are only going to give you a couple of amazing shots and many good shots. You are working for the amazing one. Most portraits are taken with the camera at (or around) the eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor.To build confidence, you simply have to take photographs. Try to shoot on a weekly basis. Framing is a technique where by you draw attention to one element of an image by framing it with another element of the image. Framing gives an image depth and draws the eye to a point of interest in the image. You could do it by placing your subject in a window or doorway, have them look through a small gap or even use their hands around their face. Portraits can be so static – but what if you added some movement into them? This can be achieved in a few ways:

  • Make your subject move
  • make an element move around your subject while keeping him still.
  • Move your camera or zoom to introduce movement.

TIP: Take your time. I see too many people rushing when they are in a portrait session. Take your time to achieve greater results.

Gear

In the equipment spectrum of portrait photography, multiple tools are available to achieve various lightings and moods. The first part will be lenses. A great lens will allow you to have a shallow DOF to direct the eye of the beholder to your subject. The DOF control will be important since you either need to eliminate the background or your need to show it. Various focal lengths can be use to create amazing portrait photography. Don’t hold anything back by thinking that portraiture is only done with one lens or a longer focal length.

TIP: Know your equipment. It looks pretty funny if you are shooting a friend or a client and do not know how to operate your camera or flash.

You can use a 14mm lens

Here is an example with a 24mm wide angle

Here is one with a 50mm

Now an 85mm lens

With a 300mm lens

And last one with a 500mm

Reflectors

A medium size reflector of 32 inches can do wonders on your portrait photography. They fold up nice and can be put in your laptop pocket of your photography bag. I will suggest that you either purchase a 5 in 1 reflector or purchase a white and silver reflector. The contrast will be control by the side or reflector that you use. White will reflect a soft light, silver and gold a harsh light with a tint depending on which one you use. If you do not have the budget for a reflector, you can always go to the local craft store and you can purchase a white foam core. If you need it silver, go to the dollar store and by yourself some aluminium foil and stick it on one side.

TIP: Use the reflector overhead of the subject for the light to look natural and flattering.

FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY

You should take the time to read the post on flash photography here.

CANDID PHOTOGRAPHY

Candid styles of photography are increasingly becoming popular both in general day to day photography but also in formal photographic situations. Probably the best way to take spontaneous photographs is to always be ready to do so. Taking your camera with you everywhere also helps people to be more at ease with you taking their photo. I find that my friends and family just expect me to have my camera out so when I do fire it up it’s not a signal to them to pose but it’s a normal part of our interaction – this means that they are relaxed and the photos are natural. Don’t be afraid to shoot lots of images to get the right one. With experience your number of keepers will grow. You might want to think about not using flash so that you do not distract the subjects and the others around. While Candid Photography is about capturing the spontaneity of a moment and getting that perfect shot at the right split second of time I find that if you think ahead and anticipate what is about to unfold in front of you that you can greatly increase the chances of getting some great shots. So at a wedding get to the church early (or even go to the rehearsal) and think about what will happen during the ceremony and where will be best for you to stand to capture each moment. Which way will people be facing? What will they be doing? What will the light be like? Thinking through these issues will save you having to run around repositioning yourself when you should be shooting images – it’ll also mean you take a whole heap less shots of the back of people’s heads! Images of people doing things tend to be much more interesting than people sitting passively doing nothing. For one your subject will be focussed upon something which adds energy to a photo (and takes their focus off you) but it also puts them in context and adds an element of story to your image. Timing is everything in Candid shots so wait until they are distracted from you and fully focussed upon what they are doing or who they are with and you’ll inject a feeling into your shots of them being unaware and that the viewer of your image is looking on unseen.Something very interesting happens when you photograph more than one person in an image at a time – it introduces relationship into the shot. Even if the two (or more) people are not really interacting in the shot it can add depth and a sense of story into the viewing of the image. Of course ideally in candid shots you’d like some interaction between your subjects as that will add emotion into the shot also as we the viewer observe how the people are acting. A trick that I often use in candid shots is to purposely include something in the foreground of the shot to make it look as though I’m hiding behind it. You might do this with by shooting over someone’s shoulder, by including a little of a tree branch or the frame of a doorway.

PHOTOJOURNALISM STYLE

Photojournalism style differ from candid by the fact that a photojournalism portrait will explain an event while being a portrait. You don’t direct, you don’t tell people what to do. You are there to observe and absorb the environment and document it as it is, just like you don’t want to lie to the public when you publish an image. Many photographers use the two names (candid and photojournalism) as if they are the same. However, photojournalism is not just a series of random photographs where the subject is not looking at the camera; nor is it any photograph shot with black and white film. Photojournalism is more of the philosophy on how the photographer approaches photographing a subject or event. Wedding photojournalists, like news photographers, photograph the wedding as an observer, and do not interfere or try to force moments into happening. A true wedding photojournalist will observe and capture key moments and a variety of other shots that help tell the story without any interference. On the other hand, candid photography can be any photo that isn’t posed.

Technique

There is no basic rule in any field of photography since there are too many variables. Portraiture does not differ from that. You need to see your light, you need to control it with reflectors or flash, you need to decide on your settings and more.

The first rule is that your Autofocus system should be in AF-s or One shot for static portrait. You should at least work in Aperture priority (A, Av) and understand that you need a minimum of 1/125th of second shutter speed. (Your camera will determine the shutter speed when in aperture mode but your ISO will give you the desired speed for stopping motion or showing motion) When you are capturing images with a wide angle try to be at the height of your subjects sternum so that distortion will be more controlled. With a standard or telephoto lens, try to be at your subjects chins height for a more intimate and connected portrait.

TIP: Have a goal to your madness. Create a desired look or lighting for a portrait don’t just shoot to shoot. Think about the result, the mood, the feel. If it’s not what you are looking for, then change it to your taste.

Sports photography

26 Dec

Sports shooting can be one of the most daunting types of photography, even to the advanced shooter. The slightest mistake can ruin a shot. Having said that, it’s also important to remember that with sports, you get a lot of chances to get a shot with great impact. There’s a built-in drama unlike any other subject I’ve come across.

You will have a head start in sports photography if you understand the sport and it’s rules. This will get you in better situation for capturing “the shot” of the event.

You will need various elements to succeed in sports photography such as Talent, Skill (learn your photography basics), Knowledge (understand your subject), Practice (shoot lots of images to understand the sport, movement and technique), Desire (sacrifices will be needed to achieve a different point of view), Work (commit to be the best) and Luck(luck is also a great factor since you need to be in the right place at the right time, it will shine from time to time)

THE GEAR

One of the biggest barrier to sports photography is equipment and technique. It will be hard to achieve a great result without fast and long lenses. The AF system of your camera will also be very important for tracking subjects.

The basic lens for this type of photography is a 70-200mm f/2.8. This lens should be on your camera if you want to shoot fast moving subjects from about 30-60 feet. This will allow you to get “close” to the action for a greater and more personal photography. The aperture of this lens will let you freeze or show motion to your ability and control. Don’t be afraid to change your angle of view for a more dramatic scene. I will always suggest to get low and then go high if possible. Changing your cropping and vantage point will put variety in your photography.

Think about images that will express an idea or a moment in the competition.

SHUTTER SPEED

With a fast lens (f/2.8) you can decide if you want to stop motion or show motion while shooting sports. A basic shot is stopping motion in sports to an important moment in the competition or the day of the athlete. You can also show speed and effort in slower shutter speed to create a different feel and drama to an event.

If you want to stop motion, you will need a shutter speed of about 1/250 minimum. To easily achieve this speed, put your camera in Tv or S mode. After that, put your camera at 1/250. If the aperture blinks or says LO, bring your ISO up for more light sensitivity. Image stabilization (IS) or Vibration reduction (VR) can be very helpful when showing motion and panning. They will also be recommended in a telephoto lens since your field of view is small. A minor movement of the lens means a big movement in the picture.

You will need to put your camera in a continuous focus or Ai servo. This will allow you to choose your AF point for proper composition and follow your subjects with ease in your viewfinder. This mode of focusing let’s the camera do the work for you. The focusing distances changes with the change of your subject.

TIP: Use the AF-On button when shooting sports for faster AF and better continuous AF. This way your AF will not have to restart when you have taken some shots.

HOCKEY

For great hockey photography, you will need a large aperture lens. You will also need to get closer to the ice. You will need to overexposed the images by at least 2 thirds to a full stop of light to get an ice that will be white and not grey! If you are shooting in Shutter speed priority, then you will need to compensate your images to properly exposed your subjects. To get a more personal photography, you will need to shoot at the bottom of the windows (just over the boards). Hold your lens hood up against the window to eliminate the reflections from your images. Watch the play not to get hit by your camera in the eye and to get a black eye!

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ANGLES

The angle at which you capture your subject is very important in sport photography. You need to get really low or high. You should try to photograph the event in a way that the human eye is not seeing it live in person. Like you will see in the Kayaking picture…I went into the water to get as low as possible angle for a different point of view. This added lots of drama to the images since the water seems higher then the rider.

The same idea is behind this shot also. We can almost see under the car * Caution this is dangerous if the car fails to achieve the corner, I am getting hit by the race car*

This images was captured to show the concentration and the intensity that a race car driver needs to achieve and maintain.

TECHNIQUES

Master your photography and your equipment. A the paste that sports move, you need to understand your photography gear perfectly and know how to make it perform. Use your vision when at a sporting event. Don’t just look at the event but try to live it and see what really happens during an event! Be prepared at all time for anything. Sports are interesting because the story behind the event changes constantly. You need to get into the proper position to shoot the images. With any sports, you need to capture moments while following the ball and also without the ball! When following an action perfect timing is everything. That is why you should understand the sport that you are photographing. Always pay attention to your surroundings during a sporting event. Fans can create an amazing image, a car crash can happen at anytime, the last buzzer shot can go in! You will need to take chances with your photography to show motion and freeze motion to represent properly a sporting event.

TIP: Photograph the star since they will be talk about the most in the next days newspaper.

 

What gives you difficulty with sports photography?

Natural light

22 Dec

Life offers us some of the most beautiful lighting and it is literally up to us to step up to the challenge of unpredictability, to seek it and to use it properly. As a natural light photographer, I do make use of reflectors and diffusers to play with the available light and tweak it to my liking.

TIP: The reflector needs to be proportional to your subject to create an appealing effect.

When shooting outside in full daylight, many people feel tempted to either use flash or place their subjects in open shade. Yes, it is true, open shade makes for easy light, but the more interesting light, the shadows, the sparkle, lies in the sun! Push your comfort level by stepping out of the shade, and shoot tons! Photograph in full daylight, at all hours of the day. Shooting mid-day will be the most challenging, but be creative! Look for interesting shadows and shapes, and play with them. Stop and analyze a scene before shooting and look for interesting vantage points that enable the light to play its amazing tricks.

When photographing people in daylight, my recommendation is to begin by shooting with the sunlight in back of your subjects. Most people will squint in full sun and/or blink frequently. By back lighting your subjects, you will allow them to be more comfortable and in return they most certainly will be more cooperative!

What happens with blown-out skies? The answer to that is “nothing”! There really is nothing wrong with exposing for the subject and letting the rest go where it goes. Perfectly lit images have their place, but I find it can be restrictive and really unnecessary when photographing people. The most important fact about portrait photography is the emotion and the moment that you capture.

With the use of reflectors, you can minimize the contrast and reclaim some detail in the background. A silver reflector will add a nice clean sharpness to the image (I really love a silver reflector when shooting professional head-shots), but remember that it is a strong reflector and you do not want to blind your subject! I use a simple white reflector most of the time to slightly open up the shadows but keep the charm of back lighting. It goes without saying that to make the most out of the use of reflectors you will need extra hands – this is when a helper comes in very handy!

When shooting inside use window light! Window light is soft and it will be charming on your subjects. A reflector on the opposite side of the window will work wonders to open up the shadows.

An important aspect of portrait photography is the psychology of your subject and yourself. You need to be confident, you need to show positive energy during a shooting. This energy will bring the best out of your subject. You need to take a good 15-20 minutes at the beginning of a shooting to have a real discussion with your client. Take the time to learn what makes them happy, what makes time smile and get in their comfort zone. Talk to your subject all the time. Don’t stay behind your camera too much or you will lose your subjects attention.

TIP: take your time, think about what you are shooting and what you want to achieve. I find too many photographers shoot to quickly! Take the time to properly expose your shot so that then you can talk and create reactions of your subject.

Shoot in Aperture or manual mode to properly control your DOF. Try to shoot some basic and starting images with a focal length of 50mm.  Take your time and talk with your subject. This will get them at ease and more confident. Then you can include the environment in the images and make variations of images. Don’t be afraid to play with framing and focal lengths to create more dramatic images and powerful images.

As with everything, practice is a must!

ISO

19 Dec

What is ISO?

ISO is an international standard of sensitivity to light. Your camera’s sensor “sees” more light as the number goes higher. You will see more light at ISO 3200 then at ISO 100. The dark side is the fact that you will get more digital noise in your images at higher ISO. I don’t pay much attention to digital noise since I want my image. The audience will see the emotion or moment rather than the digital noise. You also have to be careful since higher ISO will cause a softer (not as precise and defined) looking images.

Why would you use a higher ISO?

You need a higher ISO to “see” more light inside and during sporting events to freeze subjects movements. Higher ISO in possible because the electrical current that passes through your sensor is higher and make the sensor more sensitive to light. You need to keep your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/125th of a second to proper achieve portraits. For landscape and architectural photography, I would strongly suggest to use a tripodand use longer exposition.

ISO 160

ISO 2500

How can you hide digital noise?

You can either use software to reduce digital noise if it’s unacceptable. Adobe LightRoom 3 is a great software for file editing and noise reduction.

TIP

To hide digital noise, insure that you use proper white balance and that you over expose your images by at least 1/3 of a stop. Improper white balance can cause you to underexpose your images by a full stop. Overexposing the images by a small amount gives you the latitude to bring the exposition down while editing your images hence hiding the digital noise.

Both the following images have been taken at ISO 2500.

Overexposed and corrected via LR3

underexposed and corrected via LR3

You need to learn about your best ISO to use the performance of your sensor to it’s limit. In a Canon DLSR you want to use 160, 320, 640, 1250, 2500, 5000, 10000, etc. For a Nikon DSLR, you want to use 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this little learning post. If you have questions, please feel free to write them in comments.

Flash photography

19 Dec

Flash photography

Flash photography is an art and a hard subject to understand. Flash can be hard light, flattering light, added light in low light and a flash can be used to achieve focus in low light.

TIP

Always purchased the biggest flash gun of your manufacturer. Sigma flashes have been known to not be consistent in ETTL mode. Why purchase the biggest one? You will need the most power especially if you do not shoot with the biggest aperture lenses (see f1.4). The power will also be helpfull when used in Off camera flash (OCF).

Off camera flash example

There is alot of knowledge to learn about when using flash as main or fill light. You need to understand that a flash is usually 5200K balanced. You need to proper balance your flash gun with gels for the environment in which your are in. In a tungsten environment, you will need to use CTO gels (orange) and in a NEON light area, you need to use Green gels to balance with the ambient light. Proper white balance will need to be achieve for proper results.

Now that your light is properly colour balanced, you need to put your camera in manual mode and your flash can be used in ETTL mode. You need to understand your light meter to properly balance your ambient and flash photography.

Your Shutter speed and ISO will control your ambient light. You will need to overexposed your images by 1/3 of a stop to make your flash look like natural light. Your aperture will control your DOF like usual. If you can only achieve a highest shutter speed of 1/60th of a second then you will need to put your flash in rear curtain sync.

Bouncing your flash…trust me on this!

You should learn to bounce your flash off the walls instead of the celling like demonstrated on the following examples. Don’t be afraid to bounce your flash off of any surfaces…I have made portraits while bouncing my on camera flash off of a reflector, my assistants shirt and even leaves in a tree. Just explore the potential and open your mind to the possibilities.

On camera flash bounced on the wall to the left of the camera.

Here is a mix of natural light and flash. The model is exposed to the natural light of the window and the pool table is illuminated by an Off camera flash

Here is a hint when bouncing your flash on walls. When using a wide angle, you’ll need to bounce it behind you with a direction. When using a standard to telephoto lens, you can easily bounce you flash at a 90 degree angle. The direction of your flash is always depending on the nose. Point your flash where the subjects nose is pointed. This once again where the best manufacturers flash will be useful with it’s 180 degree towards the left and right.

You can see multiple examples on my Event and Wedding photography blog.

AF help from your flash

You can use your flash’s infrared beam to help you achieve focus without using the flash to fill light. You can disable your flash just to allow this focus help to be used.

Small flash big power

A camera flash can create big light. You will just need to at dusk or dawn. You do not get 1100 watts out of a camera to compensate for a full powered sun but you can create amazing images with such flashes.

Read this book it will teach you amazing potential with camera flashes.

The hot shoe diaries from Joe McNally

The stobist a great blog about Off camera flash.

This last picture was done with a on camera flash in ETTL mode with a silver reflector to bounce it and make it bigger. I used CTO gels to shoot in tungsten white balance to make the sky go blue.

OFF CAMERA FLASH (OCF)

Off camera flash is a very popular technique to allow you to add and control your subjects lighting. The technique is used in studio photography, automotive photography, portraiture, event photography, macro photography and more. You will need tools and knowledge to properly exposed your pictures with using OCF.

The first tool needed will be portable flashes. You will have the choice of using portable camera flashes or a powerful set of flashes used with a power pack. Now power will be the main issue here. Like stated before, the camera flash will be powerful enough to illuminate subjects that are in a shadow and when shooting at dusk or dawn. They will not be powerful enough to overcompensate the light from a mid day sun. The second option will give you the power to compensate for mid day lighting but it’s less transportable because of it’s weight.

With both solution you can achieve an amazing quality of light if used properly.

The second tool that will be needed is wireless flash triggers. You can use them manually or in ETTL depending on your budget and need. There are tow brands trusted by the pros, Pocket wizards and RadioPopper. They both can be used in manual setups and in ETTL setups. They are very easy to use and give you an amazing creative control. I chose Pocket wizards since I have been using and trusting that product for over 3 years now. Pocket wizards also give me the opportunity to remote trigger my camera with a special cable.

The third tool needed is knowledge. Don’t be afraid to test at home with dolls, fruits and round objects. They will teach you how light reacts and shapes your subject. You will need to be in manual mode on your camera to control all aspect of the flash and ambient light. The ambient light will be controlled by your ISO and your Shutter speed. (watch your lightmeter) and the amount of flash power will be control by the Aperture. You need to note that this is also in manual power control with the flashes. In ETTL, the flash power will be automatically calculated and control by the amazing flash system.

Lightpainting

Here is a fun picture. It was made with one flash and a long exposure. I selected a long exposure to achieve an ambient light capture and flashed the tree at multiple time with my flash in my hand while running around the tree. This way I could pick which part of the tree would be exposed and which one would not be. The orange sky is from the city’s light.

I hope you enjoyed the information if you have question’s, feel free to ask them via comments.