Category: Photography

Take Awesome Shots Without an Expensive Camera

HOLD YOUR HORSES

How cool is it to learn “the secrets” of taking good photos? Which, is really not too difficult to get started… you do not need an expensive camera either. All you need is a good eye, and planning the shot before taking the photo.

Let me get started with something called “snapshot” and “composed shot”. Most people will causally whip out their camera, and just take a photo of what they see. Good photographers don’t just do that. They plan and design the photo before they take a shot – a “composed shot”.

You, my dear reader, if you want to take better photos, you have to learn to design your photo before going trigger happy. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science. At the very basic, you have to learn to look out for 3 basic things – colors, lines and shapes.

COLORS

Since the dawn of time, we can all agree on one thing. We humans are attracted to colorful things, and we react differently to colors. I shall not go deep into the study of colors here, which will end up in a tearfully long and boring bible of colors.

I shall give a few tips on how to use colors instead:

  • Avoid overwhelming dull colors… like a grey sky and grey city, or murky waters with grey sky.
  • Some clashing colors can be beautiful, for example, an orange sunset with blue sea.
  • Add a drop of red in a sea of blue, or vice versa. Put a sunflower against a grey sky, a single red apple in a sea of green apples… you catch the drift.
  • A splash of colors can be messy, but also be sometimes interesting. For example, different colored balloons in the air.

LINES

Where are the lines in a photograph? Look carefully and you will notice.

  • A tree or tall building in the photo creates vertical lines.
  • A horizontal line in a photo of sunset on a beach.
  • Roads can cut across the photo frame, creating diagonal lines.

Photographers play with these lines in clever ways.

  • Vertical lines tend to cut the frame. Image a photo with a box full of red apples on the left, and a box full of green peppers on the right.
  • Horizontal lines are the easiest to use – look at all the good sunset photos all over the world… but note where they put the horizon. It’s mostly in the middle or 1/3 into the frame.
  • Diagonal lines tend to lead your eyes. For example, roads may lead to an interesting Ferris wheel.

SHAPES

Shapes are terribly similar to lines. Put them in the right places, and you get an awesome photo.

  • Squares and rectangles makes the photo look “stable” and “restful”. Well, you can think of a sunset horizon photo as two big rectangles… With the sun as a circle somewhere in the top rectangle.
  • Circles are attention grabbing in a photo, especially big ones. Yep, for example, the sunset.
  • Triangles almost have the same effect as an arrow. “The look here” effect, I call it. They can be tricky and fun though, you can try putting a few cucumbers together to point at a banana or something…

Trick Photography and Special Effects

Light Painting Techniques

By reducing the shutter speed on your camera and using it in a night setting along with a flashlight, you can create some really interesting and cool special effects.

Simply wave the flashlight around, aiming it at the subject of the photograph, as well as occasionally aiming it directly at the camera lens. What you will end up with will appear as if the light is painted throughout the photo.

Light Drawing Techniques

Light drawing is similar to light painting, but differs because the design is more specific.

Keep the camera about fifteen feet away from the subject and set the shutter speed to around 30 seconds. Using a flashlight, or other light source, begin making your pattern or design.

If you are drawing something simple such as a basic shape, you may wish to go over the pattern several times. If it is more complicated, stick to going over the pattern only one time fairly slowly to get the desired effect.

Using Flash Stencils in Photography

Using a flash stencil in your photos will give you a cool special effect. For this, you will need a box, a piece of sturdy white paper on which to make a stencil, or a pre-made stencil, and an external flash source for light.

Cut an area out of the box so that you can place your stencil in it. Tape the stencil into place. Then, on one side of the box, cut a hole just large enough for your external flash to fit into. This will cause the flash to illuminate the stenciled area.

Set your shutter speed to around 30 seconds, and then move about within the area you would like the stenciled image to appear. Remember not to stand too still or stay in any one spot too long, or partial images of your body may end up in the photo along with the stencil.

Motion Blur Effects

Motion blur images are one of the most popular of types of trick photography and special effects available. To capture the essence of motion, while at the same time having a subject in the photo appear focused, there are a few tricks you can use.

One option is to freeze the entire image by shooting with a shutter speed of about one thousandth of a second. Another way to achieve motion blur is to pan your subject, following them while everything else around you continues to move. Another option is to have the subject remain still as you focus on them and things blur past around them.

Double Exposure Special Effects

When attempting a double exposure effect, two slightly underexposed images must be taken. These images will then be combined to create one double exposure image.

The superimposed images will overlap in the finished product, so try to get them to match so that everything looks uniform and natural, aside from the subject matter that you desire to look slightly unnatural and stands out.

Take Before Your Headshot Shoot

  • Drink plenty of water. When you’re dehydrated, fine lines and pores are more noticeable, and your lips can look dry and wrinkled. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are diuretics and can cause dehydration. Make sure to drink lots of water on the days leading up to your shoot so that your skin has a healthy, dewy glow. Coconut water is also a good alternative to water and another delicious way to hydrate!
  • Moisturize. Gentlemen, this means you, too! Using a moisturizer diminishes fine lines and dry, flaky skin. My favorite night moisturizer is Honey Girl Organics Face & Eye Cream (available at Whole Foods) – it’s ultra-moisturizing and has a great texture. My second favorite moisturizer is straight up Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. I know it sounds silly, but it’s a wonderful, convenient and inexpensive beauty aid! Just pour a few drops in the palm of your hands and rub it all over your face before bedtime (and don’t wash it off). The night before you shoot is the most important time to moisturize, as well as the morning of. I recommend using a daily moisturizer such as Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion with SPF 15 – not only will it give you an extra dose of moisture, it will protect against the sun when shooting outdoors!
  • Get a facial. Again… I’m talking to you, too, guys! Facials with extractions are a great way to get your pores cleaned out. Clogged pores and blackheads are going to show up in your photos! As a photo retoucher, I can tell you that it’s easy to remove a blackhead here and there, but it’s NOT easy to clean up an entire face of dirty pores. Get your facial done at least a week before your shoot, because facials can cause breakouts and redness. Make sure that the facial you’re getting includes extractions. And drink lots of water before your facial! The more hydrated you are, the more pliable your skin will be… And this will make it much easier for your aesthetician to really get your pores clean.
  • Use fresh mascara. Ladies, this is a great time to replace your mascara! Experts say you should replace your mascara every 3-6 months, but I know many of us (myself included) sometimes keep it much longer. When mascara gets old, it looks clumpy and makes eyelashes look like spider legs. It’s almost impossible to clean those lashes up in Photoshop! So get a new tube of mascara to keep your lashes looking smooth and natural, and comb your lashes if you see any clumps. My favorite mascara is Lancome Definicils… Try it with the Lancome Cils Booster for added impact!
  • Don’t overdo your foundation. Keep makeup light and natural so that your skin texture doesn’t look fake. Loreal True Match Liquid Foundation has a lovely finish that looks great on camera. Keep translucent powder on hand for shine, but go easy with it. For men, I would typically recommend that you don’t wear any sort of foundation. Just use a little moisturizer, and possibly a light dusting of translucent powder or oil blotting sheets to take care of shine. Don’t worry about a pimple or a shaving nick – those things can easily be retouched. But I can almost always tell when men are wearing makeup in a photo, and there’s not much I can do to make it look more natural in Photoshop. If you have uneven skin and do decide to wear a foundation, use a light touch… and try the aforementioned Loreal True Match in place of cakey stage makeup!
  • Get plenty of sleep. This is an obvious tip, but it’s important. Not only will you look better, but you’ll feel better!
  • Get a trim. Hair always looks so much nicer when it’s freshly trimmed, so why not do that the week of your shoot? Neat ends can’t easily be faked in Photoshop. Also, it’s a good idea to ask your photographer to keep an eye on your hair during the shoot. It can be rearranged easily in real life, but not so much in post.
  • Bring lip balm or gloss. To keep your lips looking moist in your photos, make sure you have lip balm on hand. Ask your photographer from time to time if your lips look dry or cracked, and reapply as needed.

Posing for Family Group Shots

  • One of the easiest way to dramatically improve your composition is to stagger everyone’s head position (but keep them close). Arrange faces on different levels so that any pattern of height does not distract the viewer from seeing the group as being one cohesive unit.
  • Position each individual so they are visually connected to another individual. You can do this by having them stand very close to one another and better yet, have them touch another person. No matter the poses you go for, always try to incorporate direct contact through touch. Hands on shoulders, arms around waists, any way that you can get everyone in physical contact with each other. This will convey emotional closeness.
  • The other posing technique that I often use is to have the pose wider at the base and narrower at the top. Some photographers refer to this as the pyramid pose. This makes the group look like a single unit and the composition looks complete.
  • Pay attention to your subjects hands. It is usually a mistake to have everyone in your pose doing the same exact thing with their hands. Occasionally I will direct one or more of my clients to change their hand position to improve the pose as well.
  • It’s ideal to have everyone in the family looking in the same direction, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be in your direction. You can direct everyone to look behind you or at the youngest family member.

So it really doesn’t have to be stressful the next time you want to capture your family’s portraits. Be patient, be flexible and make it fun. You’ll end up with some awesome portraits, lots of real moments, happy parents and happy kids! Try it out! It will surely improve your photos.

About Lytro

Here are the main features of Lytro that photographers might find interesting.

  • The Light Field Sensor is a micro-lens with a digital image sensor. This is what helps produce good light direction, intensity and color. It helps define a photo.
  • Its 8x optical zoom with constant f/2 lens allows anyone to create photos with good details. With this feature, it is easy to take capture scenes as they happen without worrying about distance.
  • The Lytro has two modes of shooting,
  • Everyday Mode is ideal for those who want to stick with the basic point-and-shoot function of a camera. All that one needs to do is point the camera to the scene and then shoot. Refocusing can be done later.
  • Creative Mode is best for people who want to experiment and explore their imagination. In this mode, a user has more control, particularly in terms of the blur. For example, the camera can be refocused closer to the scene so that the photographer can aim it on the subject or area he or she wants to highlight. This can be done while one takes the shot so that lesser refocusing will be required later on.

This mode is perfect for those who want to create dramatic effects with their photos.

  • There are Manual Controls that allow users to adjust ISO and shutter speed. The Lytro’s minimum shutter speed is 1/25 while its ISO ranges from 80 to 32000.
  • The Perspective Shift is what one needs if he or she wants to change the point of view of a certain Lytro photo. This interactive feature allows a user to shift the view of a photo so that its perspective changes. The photo can be viewed upward or from the right, it all depends on which direction the user desires. A mobile app or a computer is needed for this tool to work. This feature is best for both stored Lytro photos and the newly taken ones.
  • For those who want to further add effects to their pictures, there are Living Filters. Users can choose from nine filters, all of them interactive. All you need to do is click on the filter you want to use and the photos will be enhanced.
  • Sharing is an important feature for majority of today’s devices and the Lytro is not far behind in this department. In fact, it has several advanced sharing tools. With the help of the camera’s Wi-Fi capabilities and its downloadable mobile app, any user can share photos on Facebook and Lytro.com. Resharing of photos on Twitter and Google+ is also easy. In addition, a user can convert his/her photo to GIF and then send it to anyone through email or SMS. Once the photo is shared, it can be refocused by simply tapping or clicking the screen.

Lytro is available in 8GB and 16GB (internal memory) versions. It can house 350 to 750 living pictures.

 

Starting Out in Photography

The question is no less important when you start thinking of working for yourself as a photographer, but unfortunately there is no easy formula available to calculate your fees. There are however a number of factors that you have to take into account.

You will need professional quality equipment, and you need to factor in the cost of initial purchase and the cost of eventual replacement or upgrading.

Your premises costs affect your charges: rent, utilities, cleaning are just some of the charges you’ll need to meet. Even if you work from home, there are basic costs like phone and electricity bills that you need to cover.

There is then the real question, which is how much profit a photographer should be making. There are three key factors here: the rate currently being charged by photographers in your area (either geographical or professional specialty), your reputation and how much you want the work.

When you are starting out, you need to be mindful of the rates being charged by other photographers in your area. Unless these photographers are rank amateurs, producing low quality work, your charges need to be similar to theirs. The simple truth is that most customers will have a budget, and when they have a choice of two similar services, they will usually choose the cheaper. So you need to do some research to see who is working in your market, and what they charge.

Once your reputation is established, your prowess and skill widely recognised, word of mouth recommendations and the quality of your portfolio will mean that you have many requests for your work. At that stage you can review your charges, perhaps quoting on each project depending on how much you want the work.

Because this is the final factor to consider. I think we have all heard of builders or plumbers who submit very high quotes for the jobs they don’t really want to take on. A similar reasoning applies to working as a photographer: a high-status job which will give a wider audience to your work may be worth getting at any cost.

Take Good Beach Photos

  • Recommendation 1: You can ask your traveling companion who is holding the camera to capture your turning around moment with a big smile and looking straight at the camera. Capturing the exactly turning moment is the key to make this pose successful, which requires privity between you and the photographer.
  • Recommendation 2: Back facing the camera, you can fondle your hair with your left hand and take your large brim hat with the right hand. Your should face towards the direction of the wind at beach, so your hair and brim hat will sway like dancing along with the wind. What a beautiful moment that would be!
  • Recommendation 3: When the sunshine become soft at dusk, you can capture the scene when the sun is sitting in the horizon of the sea. Stand on your toes and ask your partner to squat, with the sunset ornament your body, you would become part of the beautiful sight.
  • Recommendation 4: You can make a good use of the sands. Sands can be the easiest tool for taking beach photos. Actually it can be very useful for many poses. Today I recommend you this simple one: just fiddle up the sands and shoot the exact moment when they are spreading down, PS with a nostalgic grounding color, your eyes won’t want to leave such a picture in the photo albums.
  • Recommendation 5: You can also lie down at the beach to let your companion take the photo from your head side. With both of your hands at the wide brim beach hat and kneels stay higher than your head, you can make a lovely photo pose. The hat is better being white, the same color with the clouds, or blue, the same color with the sky and the sea.

Creative Photography

Don’t Be Afraid To Break The Boundaries

One of the most common mistakes amongst beginner photographers (and not only!) is that they are afraid of breaking the patterns, of trying something new and revolutionary, something no other photographer has tried in the past. It is OK to be different, and remember the thumb rule when it comes to photography: you can break all the rules of photography, as long as the final result is outstanding!

Use Tricks In Your Best Interest

Every photographer, regardless of how good he is uses tricks and photo editing programs to enhance the quality of his images. Trick photography is a great way to take pictures on a budget, as you do not need to invest in heavy equipment nor do you need a certain environment to take a unique shot that can make history. Photo editing programs, on the other hand, are widely used all over the world – from correcting skin flaws to adding a touch of color to clouds or a lightning, these programs are truly amazing and they can help you.

Become Familiar With Shutter Speeds

In a nutshell, there are two types of exposure: long exposure and short exposure. This refers to the amount of time the camera’s shutter is open. The shutter speed coupled with the aperture of the lens determine the amount of light that reaches the film. A slower shutter speed is recommended if you want to introduce an element of blur, while a very fast shutter speed can make a moving object to appear frozen.

Macro Photography

The world is amazing in all its beauty, so why not take photos of the small elements of nature that we often ignore? A bug, a butterfly or a caterpillar – they can all be great elements for creative photography. This is where macro photography steps in and allows you to zoom very much without distorting the quality of the image in any way. Up-close shots require the macro technique, otherwise the object in the picture will be blurry and your effort is in vain.

Think Outside The Box!

In the end, this is the purpose of creative photography – it aims to teach both photographers and their subjects how to think outside the box. Do you have an outrageous idea that you want to use in your future shootings? If so, then go for it! Dress up as your favorite character, wear your high school’s mascot costume or add some homemade items and crafts – whichever suits you best!

Make The Most Out Of Photo Editing Software

Resizing Your Photos

Aside from editing flaws, you can also use online image editing software to help to resize your images. Sometimes when a photo had been snapped, there is a lot of unnecessary scenery in the background. By resizing the image you can simply remove this. Also, of course there are strict size regulations in place for some profile pictures on the internet, and banners and images for promotional items require that a document is printed at a certain size. By using software to change the size, you can easily make sure that your photos comply with the regulations that are in place.

Image Rotation

Sometimes you may have taken a great photo, but have captured it upside down, or in a manner where it would look better if it was rotated. Software on the internet will allow you to be able to rotate the image, turning it around to blend in with your requirements. Photo editing software will help you to be able to do just this.

The examples in this article where photo editing software can be used to your advantage are just a few. The list is really endless and could go on and on. Technology is developing each and every day and we are now able to turn the worst photos, into the best ones with the simple use of online tools. This is great news for people that want to be freelance photographers and have a dream to work from home and make a career out of freelance photography.

Photograph Interiors

Decide on camera position.

When photographing an interior, do you do that with the eyes of the visitor or user of a space or the designer? A designer may want you to give an overview of the interior to enable him to explain the layout of the place. The camera standpoint is that much higher than that of a visitor. For a good coverage you may want to do both.

When positioning the camera, use a sturdy tripod with good leveling possibilities. You will find that the so called ‘ball-head’ tripods used for flexible positioning are far from ideal for this type of work. Better is to use a tripod head where you can adjust every dimension independently. The build-in leveling device will give you a good starting point. Look for walking patterns and view lines in the interior. Make sure that the vertical lines remain vertical, in a way that walls don’t fall and furniture doesn’t look pear shaped. Try to realise that when transforming a 3-dimensional space into a flat 2 dimensional image, the picture needs to be pleasing to the eye. So look for classic diagonal view lines and try to implement the rule of thirds. Subsequently look for horizontal lines in relation to the frame of the picture. If the horizontal lines are level with the picture frame than this would be perfect. Don’t forget that any correction of vertical and horizontal perspective in post-processing will eat into the overall resolution of your image. The use of wide angle tilt-shift lenses will make live easier and gives you more flexibility in choosing your position. Also live view is a very necessary feature of your camera with this type of photography attached to a laptop or tablet computer. In the olden days, analogue photographers took these images with large bulky technical view camera’s and had to judge the ‘preview’ upside down covered with a black sheet… Although I am not that old I used to work with them when I studied photography that the Academy of Art in Groningen.

Exposure and contrast

The wide angle lens and tripod enables for great depth of focus by using small apertures. For a 17-24mm lens for a full-frame camera, use f8-f16 for the sharpest images at iso 50-200. Use a remote control or the timer to avoid any camera shake.

You will find huge differences between the lighter and darker area’s of an interior, especially when bright daylight is coming in. If you use the centre weighted average or evaluative exposure mode of the camera the white walls and ceilings will look dull and grey and the shadow area’s will lose detail and colour. A simple way to overcome this is over-exposing the image and darken certain area’s in post processing by ways of dodging and burning. The success rate of this way will depend on the contrast, exposure and the dynamic range of your sensor. Better is to use a combination of analogue techniques and digital contrast enhancement in post-processing.

By adding light to the darker area’s the overall contrast will decrease and colour and clarity will return in the shadow area’s. Obviously, this needs to be done in a subtle way so that the natural atmosphere of the space is not changed.

Another way is combining multiple exposures in Photoshop. Do this by adjusting the exposure time and take 3-6 exposures depending of the overall contrast. Make sure that the camera doesn’t change position during the exposures and that there are no moving subjects in the image. There are various automated ‘HDR’ type software methods to combine these images automatically, but I find that the end result tends to look very artificial. I use a manual method called DRI, or Dynamic Range Increase in Photoshop. I start with the one or two stops over exposed image and then put the darker ones in layers over each other, by selecting the highlights and masking them. This will take a bit of practice, but you will get very natural results!

Obviously in some situations you can combine the two above described methods.

Colour temperature differences

An interior will have a wide variety of light sources. Fluorescent will generate a green-ish image, whereas tungsten will make the surrounding area of the light source brown-red. Incoming daylight contains a lot of blue light and the flash light as well. It is therefore crucial that you adjust the whitebalance of your camera as accurate as possible using live view and some careful interpretation as it is impossible to remember how it was when you are sitting behind your monitor.

Usually the colour balance will lean towards tungsten and the camera should be set somewhere in the region of 3000 – 4000 Kelvin. Some partial editing will be needed to certain area’s to bring these within an acceptable level. Usually the blue effect of daylight is accepted and very much liked in the interiors industry because of the high tech stage light effect.