Mark wanted to improve his landscape images and understand how to avoid the common issue of over or under-exposed images.
We talked about using the Rule of Thirds to help compose your shot. We also looked at using naturally occurring lines in the landscape to help draw the viewers eye into the shot.
Blue Mountains Photography workshop at Flat Rock Wentworth Falls. This example uses the naturally occurring lines of the landscape to draw the viewer into the shot from foreground to background.
Another tip I gave Mark to help achieve correct exposure is to look for the brightest area of his (usually the clouds), expose for them and then ‘open up’ 2-3 stops from there. This method allowed him to use the inherent brightness range of his camera (5 stops) and keep his exposure within those limits.
Blue Mountains Photography workshop at Flat Rock Wentworth Falls. Creative editing is another great tool for creating interesting landscapes using the Rule of Thirds principle.
Here is Mark, dwarfed by the amazing Blue Mountains vista.
Mark enjoying the view.
I run regular group workshops and individual tutoring by appointment. If you or somebody you know would like to improve their photography skills and further enjoy your camera, get in touch by phone or email.
Every so often I’m lucky enough to be a part of something very special.
The wedding of Alena and Lawry at Yestergrange, at Wentworth Falls in the upper Blue Mountains is just such an occasion.
Not only was the weather perfect, the location was stunning, but the couple were a joy to work with as they laughed and joked with each other, enjoyed their family and friends and seemed to really soak up their big day.
I was enjoying myself so much it didn’t feel like work!
All of this contributed to producing some great shots.
Here is a tip for looking your best in your family portrait photograph. Your mum will love it!
Did you know that a direct gaze and a smile are considered most attractive to the viewer? I read in a psychology journal from the Psychology School of Aberdeen that an averted gaze without a smile is perceived as more attractive than an averted gaze with a smile. In addition to this the study found that a direct gaze without a smile was less attractive than a direct gaze with a smile.
This all sounds fairly obvious I know, but it is surprising how powerful this information is when you are shooting a portrait of somebody.
When my clients view their family portrait images they inevitably have ‘favourites’ and they are more often than not those images that have them or their family smiling and looking at the camera. This information allows me to concentrate on capturing these types of images on the portrait shoot and not spending time on averted gazes (even if I like them).
The only time I would bend this rule is when shooting groups or couples looking at each other such as with a wedding couple or family. The interaction between people can be attractive in itself and make for beautiful candid images.
Look at the examples below and draw your own conclusions.
Direct gaze and smile give this image an attractive feel.
The Happy Couple looking at each other makes for an intimate feeling to the image.
Direct gaze without a smile can give a particular feel to the image.
A mix of direct and in-direct gaze helps draw the viewers eye through the image toward the baby with the ‘most’ attractive gaze.
Have you ever wondered what size you should print your enlargements?
It depends on a number of factors such as;
– resolution of your camera
– which room in the house you want to hang the image (living room, bedroom etc)
– how far away you will be from the image
Did you know that the viewing distance of an enlargement is best determined by the resolution of the image and the diagonal width of the print? Billboards usually have a resolution as low as 22ppi (pixels per inch) because they are viewed from such a vast distance.
Some photographers use the formula of 1.5 to 2 times the diagonal width to determine the viewing distance.
I was pleased to deliver this image last week. Shot at one of my favourite Blue Mountains locations, this order was a 48” framed print of this family from Epping standing at Flat Rock, Wentworth Falls. At 48” x 25” and 300ppi it has a diagonal distance of 54” meaning it would be best viewed at 2-2.7m away.
Think of that next time you are buying a new 80” tv. You would need to have your lounge at least 4 meters away from the screen to see it correctly!
Another formula for the resolution of the image is 3438 divided by the viewing distance.
So, to view this image from 3m (120″) away, I would divide 3438 by 120 to find the minimum resolution of the print as 29ppi. This is obviously very low res but as long as I wasn’t standing inside 3m from the image it would appear to be quite sharp and detailed.
What this all means is that your small mega-pixel camera need not prevent you from creating big enlargements, as long as the minimum viewing distance is not exceeded they will look sharp and detailed.
I’m not sure how practical that is but its worth giving some thought to I reckon.
Here is a link to a good discussion on print resolution and viewing distance.
I’m always scouting around for great new locations for outdoor family portrait photography in the Blue Mountains and Penrith area.
Many of my clients live in the lower mountains, Penrith, Emu Plains, Glenmore Park and Mulgoa regions so its important for me to have a number of options for locations available at different times of the year depending on the season.
As we move into Autumn and then Winter more of my photo–shoots happen at locations in the lower mountains and Penrith area. One of my favourite spots is River Road Reserve at Emu Plains.
At the moment there are Autumn colours everywhere making for a beautiful backdrop to family photography.
This shoot took place at River Road Reserve and involved grandchildren assembling for some photos for Nanna. The children were great, they got on so well together and they all seemed to enjoy the time together which came through in the shots. Nanna was very pleased!
Brother and sister trying to look like they like each other
All the cousins together
Darren Edwards is a professional family portrait photographer specialising in family and corporate photography in the Blue Mountains, Penrith and greater Sydney region.
Autumn in the Blue Mountains is a beautiful time for outdoor family portrait photography.
With the abundance of parks and gardens awash with the colours of Autumn leaves, the backdrops are stunning.
An outdoor family portrait photograph adds that extra special element of being out and amongst nature and more importantly enjoying that time with your family and allowing that joy to shine through the images.
This young family travelled up to the mid mountains to enjoy the early morning sun and Autumn colours for their photo shoot and we had a ball. Their 9 month old boy giggled and laughed and seemed to really enjoy all the attention he was getting from mum and dad.
I tried to incorporate the golden leaves and the morning sun in the shots as much as possible to give the images a nice warm feeling. The morning sun backlighting them really made the leaves glow and become a great feature of the images. This shoot was a nice way to start the day.
Family Portrait outdoors with Autumn colours
Darren Edwards is a professional family portrait photographer servicing the Blue Mountains and greater western Sydney region. With 20 years industry experience and the highest quality products and services your family portrait, newborn, corporate or fine art photograph is in good hands.
Click “Darren Edwards Photography” to see more images, “Commissions” to learn more about our products or “Contact” to make an appointment for your individual commission.
Photographing a large family group can be a real joy with a carefully chosen location and a happy family group.
For this family portrait we chose the beautiful grounds of Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge as the venue as it afforded us the opportunity to include the garden furniture and of course the wonderfully maintained gardens.
Most people are uncomfortable with being photographed and I find creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere at a great location often leads to better images and happier clients. After all, investing in professional family portraits means you’ll be enjoying the images on your walls for many years.
Following the large family group photos we moved onto smaller family groups, including the grandparents on their own and with the grandchildren, as well as the siblings together and of course the grandchildren on their own enjoying the fountain.
The clients told me they enjoyed the shoot and loved the results.
Norman Lindsay Gallery is a National Trust property in the mid Blue Mountains less than 30 minutes drive from Penrith or Katoomba.
Darren Edwards Photography is a professional photographic studio based in the Blue Mountains and servicing the greater Sydney and central west region. With 20 years industry experience, outstanding products and value for money, your photographic commission is in good hands.
Click on “Darren Edwards Photography” at the top of the page to see more images or “Contact” to make an enquiry.
While we may have a friend with a camera, or good old Uncle Harry or Aunty Betty with their you-beaut camera and lens package to help record our special day, there is a lot to be said for having a professional there to ensure the job is does well.
I recall seeing an advertisement for Kodak film many years ago which had a line that read something like “a great family portrait isn’t expensive, its priceless!”.
Another advertisement Kodak used had words to the effect, “capture the moment now, and enjoy it over and over.”
Photographing a wedding recently I was struck by how many of the guests had their cameras and phones out snapping away at the happy couple as the event unfolded.
I wondered how many of those images would be “up on Facebook” before the end of the reception, shared with friends across the country or across the world.
These days we all have a digital camera of some description, whether it be a digital SLR or a compact camera or even our phone. One way or another we are able to take a photograph and record a moment for posterity.
Many of these images are snapshots or happy-snaps designed to make a quick record of an event and share it with friends or family via Facebook or Flickr, while others are often more considered moments destined for an album or frame.
I recently received this feedback from a client who had commissioned a portrait with her family to give as a gift to their mother for her 60th birthday.
“Just wanted to pass on a huge THANK YOU! The photos were beautiful. My mum cried when she saw them.”
I love being a portrait photographer, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work, especially when the result has such an effect on people.
Getting back to the Kodak advertisement – what makes us cry tears of joy when we see a beautiful family portrait? Moreover what makes a beautiful family portrait, and how do you choose a photographer to create it?
The photographers I’m most influenced by have a gift for seeing a moment before it happens, they have wonderful anticipation for what is about to happen and incredible skill to capture that moment.
These are skills which take years to develop, through experience, knowledge and practice.
Having patience and anticipation helps to capture beautiful moments
I model my own work practice on these principles. I have been photographing people for 20 years and feel I have a keen sense of how people respond to being photographed.
The most difficult part of a good family portrait shoot is creating the right environment for something to happen. I like an outdoor location as I feel it helps this process by providing an open space not enclosed by walls. Out in the elements my clients feel the environment around them, they can explore and be themselves, if its cold they can cuddle into each other, its a physical event.
What follows is anticipation and patience – being ready for that moment goes a long way to producing unique and beautiful images to enjoy over and over.
What is the best camera or lens is like trying to answer the “how long is a piece of string?” question.
I’m often asked to recommend a camera or lens for somebody starting out in photography – I find it difficult to give a definitive answer most of the time as the choices are so numerous.
Nikon or Canon – Ford or Holden?
What camera is best is a bit like the Ford and Holden debate. You’re either a Nikon user or a Canon user. While there are other brands, when it comes to DSLR these are the two big brands.
I use Nikon, not because I don’t like Canon or because I drive a Holden, just because it was the camera I was given to use when I started my career and I’ve continued to use them for nearly 20 years.
I have driven both Holden and Ford in the past but now have a love of French cars, which is beside the point…
I have photographer friends who swear by Canon and won’t consider using anything else. Each to their own I reckon as long as you get the shot – right?
Starting out in photography can be an expensive exercise and the initial outlay can be huge if you haven’t done your homework.
The great thing is you can always add to your kit over time as you improve and develop your skills.
Most manufacturers these days have cameras at many different price-points, with 1 or 2 zoom lenses which cover focal lengths anywhere from 18mm up to 200 or 300mm. This sort of focal range should cover most people for most photographic subjects and situations.
The “disadvantage” for want of a better word with these zoom lenses is they are not particularly “fast” and don’t always have the best optics or elements. For most of us that won’t matter and won’t be noticeable, but for the serious amateur wanting to go to the next level you might consider investing in some “nice glass” and getting either a few fixed focal length lenses or a zoom with a consistent F-stop of 2.8 for serious speed and shallow depth of field.
Fixed focal length or zoom?
Again there are two schools of thought about fixed focal length and zoom lenses. Fixed focal length means your lens is 28mm or 35mm or 50mm or whatever focal length and thats it. There is no zooming from 28 up to 50mm or vice-versa. Some say fixed focal length is old-school and the technology in zoom lenses these days means there is very little blur, quality loss or vignetting like there use to be with some zoom lenses.
I like fixed focal length lenses because I like to be involved in the shoot. By that I mean if i’m too far from the subject I physically need to move, I can’t zoom-in as this changes the focal length and therefore the effect I want. I will often change lenses 5 or 6 times during a shoot as I strive to create the image I want. I could use zoom lenses and not have to change them so often but I choose not to.
Zoom lenses are great for particular applications – wedding photography and press photography both spring to mind. Both of these disciplines often involve capturing moments very quickly as they happen and zoom lenses are ideal for this sort of thing. One doesn’t have time to fiddle around changing a lens during a wedding or a press event as the moment can pass and you’ve missed it!
You need to move fast at a wedding to not miss the moment
What do I use?
I use Nikon gear. I have worked as a press photographer and used zoom lenses, typically 18-55mm and 70-200mm both f2.8 and both perfect for that sort of work.
Now I use fixed focal length lens for most of what I do – for family portraits and commercial portraits I most often shoot with my 85mm or my 135mm depending on the outdoor location. I might also use a 24mm or 50mm to include the background into the shot.
The correct focal length can help you achieve the result you want
What should you choose?
Obviously we’re all driven by our budget so far be it for me to suggest anybody go out and spend thousands on a kit you might not benefit from.
Try to invest most of your budget in your lenses as these can last a lifetime if cared for well. Camera bodies generally don’t last forever with most DSLR’s having a finite number of shutter-releases before they need replacing. (I’ve heard it can range from 100,000 up to 200,000 depending on the brand and model)
Your lens choice will depend on what you want to photograph most. For portrait photography choose a lens with a focal length from 80mm up, to help you isolate your subject from the background, landscape photography will require wide angles, for sport you’ll want telephoto from 200mm or 300mm.
Wide angle lens for landscape photography - Bermagui Point
Then there are specific purpose lenses like macro photography and tilt/shift lenses for architecture.
Once you have your camera and lenses you can start to think about lights – speedlights and strobes. But thats for another post…
The most important thing in my opinion is to gain an understanding of what effect you can achieve by using different focal lengths. Zooming your lens shouldn’t just be about getting closer or further back from the subject, it should be about creating an image with particular subject matter and compositional elements linked to your choice of focal length.
Try to choose the correct lens for the subject and regardless of your choice of camera learn to use it, read the manual or take a course, the reward for effort can be ten-fold and your next lens or camera purchase will be an informed one.
I like to use outdoor locations for my portrait shoots as I believe it helps create a better working environment and therefore better images.
However it is not as simple as just going down to the local park with your camera and your kids and snapping away. I thought I’d share some tips on how to go about planning a successful photo-shoot.
The right time of day
Choosing the right time of day is a big consideration. This can depend on who you are photographing – whether it be your toddlers or your teenagers or even your partner or pet. Most toddlers “perform” best earlier in the day so might benefit from an early morning shoot.
The “golden hour” is just before sunset when the light conditions are generally considered best for producing wonderful atmosphere. While we would all like to have our photo-shoots at this time one needs to be a little flexible when it comes to youngsters.
When I’m teaching others to use their camera one of the most important elements of composition I like to stress is background – background, background, background! There it is stressed.
Look for clean backgrounds for your shots. This can mean moving yourself or your subject to eliminate that tree branch poking up behind their head, or that telegraph pole or whatever element is going to distract the viewer from enjoying your composition.
Use foliage to frame or border your subject. Sometimes you can use a leafy branch or a tree trunk to create a frame around your subject. Branches and leaves can also make points of interest for your subject to look at or reach for.
If you are using the shade of a leafy tree you might bring your subject out the edge of the foliage and give yourself a nice deep, dark background by exposing for the subjects face and therefore under-exposing the shade under the tree.
Use foliage to frame your subject
Be aware of dappled light falling through leaves on trees. Turning your subject to face away from the sun will prevent them having dappled spots of light and shade on their faces.
As the sun sets you can use the soft light much like a lamp or strobe light by positioning your subject relative to the light and giving them that golden glow from the sunset. Remember to look at where shadows are falling on the face to keep it sympathetic.
Advanced users might think about using a reflector or diffuser to further control the light outdoors.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is what should we wear? Dress for the season is my best advice. Out in the park you can all wear jeans and a smart collared shirt. Toddlers look great in jeans and button-up shirts for the boys and long floral dresses for the girls. Most of all remember to wear something warm if the season dictates it. There is nothing worse than having your subject all hunched up and shivering because they haven’t worn warm clothes.
Set a shallow depth of field with a low aperture to help isolate your subject from the background. Not only does this create a blurry background it can help “clean-up” that background. Remember how important background is?
Keep your shutter speed high enough to stop the action. Kids like to wriggle and run around so you’ll need a fast enough shutter speed to capture that movement without your shot looking blurry or out of focus.
Shallow depth of field can isolate your subject from the background
Make an event of it
Take a picnic with you! Try to make the visit to the park about having fun with your family not just about having some photos taken. If you put too much emphasis on the event and the photos this can often lead to disappointment when you struggle to get “that shot” you have in mind.
Your photography should be about enjoying your craft or hobby, so if you don’t get the shot you want today, you can always come back next week and when you do come back you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you earned the first time.