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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Portrait Photography

Many professional photographers try to capture their subject’s true essence by using tricks. One example of this is counting to three so the subject prepares and then while they are relaxing after taking a planned photo the photographer will snap a few more unplanned photos. In most cases the subject won’t even know that more than one photo was taken but it’s usually the photos that the subject wasn’t expecting that capture their true essence.

Another more common strategy professionals use is to tell funny jokes that make their subjects genuinely laugh or smile. I’m sure that you have probably experienced something like this yourself.

CLOSE-UP PORTRAITS

These usually have the subject’s shoulders and head or less. They are framed around the face. These are the most common and best at capturing expressions and glamour shots. For these it is very important to have the light coming from a good angle. To accent wrinkles or small details you should have the light coming from the side or from the top. To create flattering pictures you should choose a cloudy day or try to create diffused light so there are hardly any shadows. Also make sure the subject is brighter than the background to reduce distraction.

For close-up portraits you should use a wide aperture (low f/stop) to make the background out of focus and therefore less of a distraction. Professionals commonly use a fixed telephoto lens that’s 90 mm or higher for portraits in order to de-emphasize the subject’s nose or any other unflattering feature. It works because at that distance the nose or any other feature does not seem closer to the camera than the rest of the face.

UPPER BODY OR MIDRANGE PORTRAITS

These are easier to capture because the subject is probably more relaxed because it’s less personal. These include a little more of the background than close-ups. These are commonly used for both single subjects and multiple subjects. This is the kind of portrait used to mark occasions such as graduation, yearbook, birthdays and other parties. The ideal lens would be about a 90 mm fixed telephoto or more wide angle depending on how many subjects there are.

ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITS

These are the portraits that let you into the life of a subject. They might include the whole subject in a scenario or the subject participating in some hobby that they enjoy. These are best for telling a story to the viewer about the subject. They are almost always used by photojournalists to look into the lives of interesting people. They also make great Black and White pictures.

Improving Landscape Images

Lets start off with light: There are three basic qualities of light: intensity, direction and colour.

Intensity: refers to the strength of light. If the sun is high in the sky, light can be harsh and too strong. Cloudy days bring soft and defused light.

Direction: this refers to light placement. There are three categories of light placement: front, back and side-lighting. Side lighting produces more texture between light and shade.

Colour: the colour of sunlight varies depending upon conditions and time of day. If the sun shines at the beginning or the end of the day, the colour of the light will be much warmer, and will lead to a much more dramatic scene.

Understanding natural light will develop your ability to see. You will start to see the beauty of light in a different and exciting way.

In landscape photography it is very important to take care with composition. A normal scene can be transformed by paying close attention to detail. Composition is all about how you arrange the elements in front of you.

Here are a few ideas in which you may find useful.

Lead with lines: To lead with lines into the main part of the scene will draw your viewer into your image. These lines don’t have to be straight. Lines, such as tracks, riverbanks or fences, may work successfully.

Foreground interest: Simple foreground objects can give your landscape a greater sense of depth. Use a small aperture (f/22) to keep the entire scene in focus.

Natural frames: Frame your scene with the elements all around you. This will focus attention on the main part of the picture. Trees make great natural frames.

Low Light Photography

Well, you will need a camera as well as charged batteries, that’s for sure. Also, a tripod is invaluable for exposures lasting greater than 1/30th second (1/60th in some cases). A torch, a decent lens and think about a remote shutter release – using long shutter speeds means the potential for camera shake and blurred images is even greater than usual (the alternative is to use a self timing mechanism to trip the shutter).

Night time often means scenes lit with artificial light. This will inevitably give a colour cast to your shots although this can be pleasing sometimes. There are many types of lighting (tungsten, halogen, fluorescent) and they will all come out with different colour casts – live with it! Try different white balance settings to see what effect it has on the final image.

This can be difficult. But with modern digital cameras you can see the results immediately and therefore make any adjustments straight away. Your meter may lie! Be ready to change the settings (and give a longer exposure). Night time shots can be very contrasty (bright lights and deep shadows) – the camera won’t be able to cope with the extremities of exposure so just change the settings yourself until you are happy with the results! You may need to use the “B” or “Bulb” setting to hold your shutter open for long periods.

Virtually anything! The choices are almost limitless. We suggest you consider:

Buildings

Lights

Signs

Bridges

Cars / vehicles

Lit houses / pubs / shops

People (motion blur can be a useful effect)

Street illuminations

Fireworks

Bonfires

Fairgrounds

Reflections in lakes, pools

Look around for other ideas. Don’t forget if there is any light at all, it can be turned into an image.

To calculate exposures you can use a rule of thumb – see below for rough examples of exposure times. However, each circumstance will require a different approach so you can expect to adjust things frequently!

Town / City 20 sec

Signs / Lights 2 secs

Streets 20 secs

Streets 20 secs

Churches 30 sec

Fairgrounds 10 – 15 secs

Candlelight 60 secs

Fireworks 1 – 60 secs

One interesting aspect of night photography is the recording of moving trails of light. Cars, buses, trains, bikes will have bright headlights and tail lights which will record as trails across your image if you shoot them whilst they are moving with a slow shutter speed of anything from 2 – 20 seconds. Try it! The same goes for fairground rides. And don’t forget that you can create your own trails with statically lit objects by zooming in or our during a long exposure or even panning the tripod head.

By taking a shot of a scene with, say, as stop of under exposure and a stop of over exposure, you will be more likely to capture an image that is correctly exposed. Bright lights tells the camera to underexpose. Many cameras will have automatic exposure bracketing to allow this to be done with minimal fuss! You are trying to record some detail in the shadows without burning out the highlights. If you take an image of a scene at 4 second exposure, take the same scene with 8 seconds and 2 seconds. In this way you will be likely to get the exposure you are looking for.

Night photography “feels” different. Different sights, different sounds, different locations and different camera settings. Nobody is an expert – we all have to experiment. With modern digital cameras this is something that can easily be achieved.

Great Shots of Your Cat

Now is the time to improvise and innovate! The family cat (or dog for that matter) can be a source of some great shots (and yes, you can still take and keep the usual pretty pictures as well).

Next time you want to take some decent images of your cat, think of the following:

– the cat hiding behind something, ready to pounce

– an action shot, the cat going scatty or engaged in an activity

– a close up – get in real close, use macro or close up lenses (and a reflector)

– a studio shot – keep the background plain and contrasting

– employ a human to be part of the shot – the cat walking around stockinged feet or boots

– get a prop – a chair, bed, shelf, bench

– focus on detail – fur, eyes, teeth

– combine the cat with something appropriate but unusual – a gigantic ball of wool or a large fluffy mouse

– cats and babies are really cute!

– get the cat to sit with an unusual, contrasting, object – on a cycle, with some fruit, in the bath

I am sure you can think of more. Take lots of images so that you get one that looks the part.

Cats are willing participants and readily available. And you don’t need to go outside!