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.
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.
Glassware and liquids are some of my favourite products to photograph.
They require quite technical applications of light and photographic technique.
This wine bottle and glass were shot using a bright field technique to illuminate and give shape and form to the glass itself. I added a orange gel to a reflector and 12 degree grid for the background to give the shot its colour and form the graduated spot of light on the background.
To light the label simultaneously was a bigger challenge.
I used a snoot on the foreground light to give me a spot of light just on the label. When photographing glass one has to be constantly aware of specular highlights on the glass, these are the enemy of bright field images! It is extremely difficult to avoid all specular highlights but the careful use of a gobo or 2 can help to mask off just the area you would like to receive the light.
I used 2 gobos to mask off the label on the front of the bottle and keep any light from appearing on the glass.
The first image is straight out of the camera, note the odd specular highlight in the neck of the bottle and rim of the glass.
The second image is the ‘retouched’ version with the highlights removed and the tone curve slightly tweaked.
This type of photographic technique is great for most glass objects including drinks, vases and glass art pieces and of course crystal.
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.