Category Archives: Guest Contribution

Low light action shots – tips for getting them right

“Low light action shots” is contributed by Melanie Hyde (Bio) of PaintShopPro.com Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Action photography itself can be extremely challenging. Being in the perfect place at just the right time, capturing that incredible moment. Then, hoping to transport anyone who sees your photo across time and space to take them back to the moment the image was taken. It’s a truly a magical experience, whether you’re taking the picture or the viewer.

Given the challenges that come with action photography, removing most of the light only makes it all the more difficult.

There is good news. The same principles of action photography and proper exposure apply. It’s just a little more challenging to get those low light action shots.

Light sources for your low light action shots

When it comes to taking low light action photos, you’ll need to combine the available light sources. This will help to make the most of the situation. First, take a look around and identify whether the lighting is constant or variable.

Constant Light

Constant light occurs within your setting when you can isolate out a source for a shot. Framing the shot is important so that the light is consistent for that shot. The next shot may have a different source – you need to isolate the light for that too. For example, if you were shooting a wedding reception, you might capture an image of the bride and groom on the dance floor. Then, you turn around and capture an image of the bride’s parents dancing across the room. Depending on the setting, the lighting may be different between the two subjects but consistent within each shot.

When lighting is consistent, operating your camera becomes much easier. The camera can adjust to meet the needs of the low light action shots. Here are a few points to keep in mind when shooting with constant low light:

  • Shoot in shutter priority mode so the camera can adjust.
  • Use Auto White Balance so the camera can adjust.
  • Manually control your ISO.
Variable light

Variable light occurs when light sources are constantly changing and are inconsistent across your field of view. Imagine you’re photographing the lead singer at a rock concert. You may have to deal with strobes, spotlights and pyrotechnics. The constant changes in light sources will cause your camera to struggle to automatically expose the image correctly.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera - go manual.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera – go manual.

When dealing with variable light conditions it’s usually best to go manual. In this situation, remember to:

  • Manually set your aperture and shutter speed.
  • Manually set your White Balance.
  • Manually set your ISO.
Balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO

You have three ways to control the way your camera exposes an image. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. To successfully capture great low light action shots, you must be able to manipulate these elements. Select settings that allow you to capture the highest quality image for the ambient light conditions.

The exposure triangle helps you to keep your shot’s exposure within the capability of the camera and lens. So when going manual your settings should allow these three essentials to balance. Look in your viewfinder to get the needle settled in the centre for a proper exposure. For more detail check out The Exposure Triangle – An aid to thinking about exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

Start with shutter speed

Low light action shots are by definition going to be in difficult light for your camera. Getting your shutter speed right can be tricky. However, it has a huge impact when shooting movement in low light. The following diagram will help you select the right setting.

Camera shutter speed guide.

Camera shutter speed guide :: Low light action shots need the right camera speed. If the shutter speed is too low you get blurring.

You have to select a speed that is fast enough to capture the motion clearly and without blur. The speed should still slow enough to deal with the lack of light. For action shots, it’s always best to use the fastest shutter speed that the light allows. It is a balancing act so you will need to practice.

Select the widest aperture for your low light action shots

In action photography, capturing crisp and clean images is usually the priority. When shooting with low light settings, it’s crucial to get as much light to your sensor in the small amount of time that your shutter is open as possible.

For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

The aperture sets the initial amount of light coming into the lens. For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

To accomplish this, use the widest aperture that your camera allows. While shooting in shutter priority mode, you allow your camera to do this automatically. Shooting in manual mode however, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your exposure. You need to make sure that your images are not underexposed in the low light.

Using high ISO

Are your images are consistently coming out blurry with your aperture is as wide as can be? Consider stepping up your ISO settings.

Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

On the dance floor the light is almost always difficult. Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

By changing your ISO, you alter your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more exposed your image will be. Just be cautious: using a higher ISO may introduce more “noise” to your photos. This noise can often be reduced or corrected in a post-processing software like PaintShop Pro Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page or Lightroom Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page. (Shooting in RAW is especially helpful with noise reduction).

Check your work as you go

Throughout the shoot, use your histogram. (See: Can you use the histogram on your camera?) It will help to make sure you’re exposing your images correctly. The histogram shows the distribution of the type of light in your shot. It aims to help you capture a consistent amount of light across the full spectrum of your image.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

You’ll also want to make sure that your white balance looks good and adjust accordingly. In most cases, your camera is going to be able to set white balance automatically, but you may need to tweak it; especially if your lighting is wildly inconsistent.

Increase your odds

Low light action shots are all about being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.

Use the fastest lens you can find. The wider the aperture, the more light your lens allows to strike your camera sensor. Anything higher than F2.8 will cause you to struggle with exposure.

Set the camera to continuous drive. This equips your camera to capture a burst of images every time you press the shutter release and gives you a better chance of capturing that perfect picture.

Use a fast memory card. Your camera can only capture images as fast as it can write them to the memory card. If you snap too many images in rapid succession, you’ll have to wait for the card to catch up with your camera and you might miss “the shot.”

Be prepared to shoot…a lot. You’re going to have a lot of images that are no good. So remember to keep tinkering with your settings. The key is shooting lots of images at different settings until you get the perfect mix.

Don’t forget to have fun

Low light action photography can be both challenging and fulfilling. As you refine your skills and your eye for lighting, action, and composition, remember to regularly experiment and try new settings.

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Essential gadgets for the everyday photographer

Essential gadgets for the photographer

A look at some essential gadgets for the photog…

Today’s article comes from: Jane Grates (Bio) from Sleeklens.com.

It is essential, and fun, to keep up-to-date with the latest trends. Gadgets occupy an important niche in our world of photography. In this article I look at the essential gadgets that are must-haves for the serious photographer.

essential gadgets for the photog

Look out for those essential gadgets…

SD Card holder

First, the basics. Lots of hardware to improve your performance as a photographer is wasted if you do not have enough space to store pictures. The storage issue can become a nuisance. Beat the problem and have many SD cards in order to prevent lack of drive space. This is particularly important for photographers who travel a lot.

Essential gadgets - The SD card holder.

Essential gadgets – The SD card holder.

Buying an SD card holder is a smart solution to the space problem. You can split your work over different SD cards to create a well organized library. Not only are you placing your work in a safe place, you are creating smart categories too.

A Tripod

A classic, the tripod is vital when dealing with heavy lenses or long exposure times. Night time photography is almost impossible without a tripod. The longer exposures are needed to capture low light levels.

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have. Look for one that suits the needs of your photo interests and for height and transportability. Higher quality tripods tend to be heavier, but this means they are less likely to blow over or vibrate in windy conditions.

xxx

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have.

Think how you will use your tripod. This will determine the price range. If you do your work mainly in a studio, or you are just starting your business, you can buy a simple model. If, on the other hand, you are a skilled photographer, you will want to buy a pricier, more adaptable one to last longer and endure the diverse conditions you may come across.

Lens Filters

You can create “filter effects” with post-production ‘presets’ in editing software. But you can skip a step by using on-camera filters. This will save incredible amounts of time in processing. Filters can help you avoid burned out images from strong sun if you use Polarized filters. The camera lens will react the way your eyes do when you use polarized sunglasses.

Polorising filter - one of the more essential gadgets.

Polarising filters help you deal with strong sunlight – one of the more essential gadgets.

Remember to buy a lens filter that fits your lens size. There are companion gadgets for filters. Step-up/down rings serve to create a perfect fit on lenses with non-standard formats or sizes. The latter are commonly seen on bridge cameras.

Remote shutter release

For long exposure times, or for portrait pictures including the photographer in the scene, remote shutter devices are handy tools. Simply grab your remote shutter release, place your camera on the tripod and let the action flow.

Remote shutter release - one of the essential gadgets.

Remote shutter release – one of the essential gadgets.

You can choose a remote shutter release from wired or wireless devices. I recommend buying a wired model, at times interference can be frustrating. Although, there are some very good models on the market recently. It is worth

Another remote shutter choice is a phone app. Not all camera models are supported. Some Canon and Nikon models are compatible with this feature. The apps are cheap, or free, saving some of your money. In fairness the latest remote shutters are not really expensive. Still, having a phone app will certainly guarantee that you won’t forget your remote shutter release wherever you go!

Weather cases

A common problem, as a photographer, is the sudden appearance of bad weather. It’s not good for using your camera! Don’t risk the investment you made in quality kit. Consider carrying a weather-safe case that fits your camera model, lenses and other accessories. Not only are you going to protect your beloved camera, but you can continue your shoot regardless of the conditions.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather - use a camera case.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather – use a camera case.

Weather sealed cameras can benefit from this protection too. Water seals deteriorate over time. Other attached accessories are not all water proof as well. Don’t risk your device without even thinking about it.

Smart phone lenses

If you are a photographer on the go, you probably own a smartphone. Up to date models have a good camera. It can be a limitless source of creativity. However, smartphones are limited compared to modern DSLR cameras. They rarely have full and true manual controls. They lack the proper control of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed settings.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

A cool way to fix this issue is smartphone lenses. They come in a wide range of prices and with various features. Common base models of add-on smartphone lenses can do things that smartphone camera lenses can’t do. For example, fish-eye effect, macro or telephoto and other effects. More complex models, like the latest Sony QX-10, completely reinvents the smartphone lens concept. It boosts the smartphone with a professional quality sensor packed with manual controls. Even if it seems to be pricey, the result won’t disappoint.

Remember, the smartphone is a useful addition to the camera bag in its own right. Check out this post: Using tablets in photography.

Essential gadgets – more than just the camera… Photographer’s backpack

Like the tripod, photographers backpacks are a common classic. They provide storage for the camera, different lenses, as well as leaving room for other important items. Some are also designed to carry laptops, batteries, and much more. Avoid back packs that are not designed for photography. They can cause equipment damage. Specially designed packs let you carry equipment safely and help you pack efficiently.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Consider buying a weatherproof backpack regardless of price. Protecting your working equipment is a top priority. Photographic equipment is highly sensitive to poor climate conditions. Most good quality packs come with slip-over water protection.

Also, be aware of the maximum weight supported by the backpack. Don’t over load it (or you). Avoid misuse, which will shorten the life expectancy of the product. Protect it from wear, chemicals and dust.

Essential gadgets are those that suit your needs

You can find countless options for complimenting your photography and workflow. Most will depend on the kinds of photography you decide to focus on. In the end, it is up to you to find the best equipment that will enhance your day-to-day photography. Everyone has their own special “essential gadgets”… What are yours?

Feed your imagination…

Here are some more essential gadgets for photographers on Amazon.
Check out this Google search on essential gadgets for photographers!

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Looking for the natural detail

Looking for natural detail :: It is all too easy to miss the finer details in nature.

• Looking for the natural detail •
Casual observation often misses the natural detail in a scene. Most of us are guilty of walking past the fascinating detail and seeing only the bigger picture.

Getting closer to the riches.

“I’m sure we’ve all walked along a beach, enjoying the moment. A time to kick off shoes, socks and the shackles of daily life. To relax in one’s own world, exploring new surroundings. But do we soak up all we see around us or do we merely pass by, with little more than a cursory glance? To stop and look closely, could be considered a luxury – but then why not? Enjoy all the riches a beach has to share, it fuels our memories all through the winter time. Is it real, or just a dream?”

These are the opening words to a sequence from the second presentation in my Hebridean Trilogy, entitled “The Island Dream”. And how true they are. I am sure we have all been guilty of overlooking the finer natural detail, spread out as it is, all around us.

Natural detail :: Patterns left by the falling tide as the sea, sand and peat mingle

• Water patterns in the sand •
Patterns left by the falling tide, as the sea, sand and peat mingle on a Hebridean Island.

Natural detail – the wonders up close

I am often on my knees, on a beach, photographing the wonders to be seen up close. Whether they be patterns left by the falling tide, as the sea and the sand and the peat mingle together, or broken shells who have ended thier life by being smashed in the endless surf.

You don’t need specialist equipment or Macro lenses to capture this natural detail. Most cameras have a close up feature incorporated which adjusts the camera’s settings accordingly. With your feet and legs set firm in the sand, and holding the camera tightly, you can almost replicate a tripod. This ensures images are sharp and in focus where they have to be.

Natural detail :: Shells which ended their life smashed in the endless surf.

• Broken shells •
Shells which ended their life smashed in the endless surf.


You may also need to consider lighting. We photographers often keep the sun behind us. When crouched on the beach your subject could be in deep shade. This is tasking the camera too far. Perhaps a bright but overcast day would be better, avoiding strong directional light which may cause camera sensors to work overtime.

A quiet, wondrous place

A quiet beach in the right light can be a wondrous place. Try mooching along the sand, being careful not to leave footprints where you may later wish to photograph. No need to rush either, enjoy the rare moment.

Natural detail :: You can almost replicate a tripod

• Detail in the sand •
With feet and legs set firm in the sand you can almost replicate a tripod for your natural detail shot.


I recall a visit to Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. One beach offered me countless opportunities to photograph the finer points of natural detail. I must have spent several hours, in glorious warm sunshine, ambling along the shore line. I can’t recall now how many images I got. It must have been several dozen. With digital, if the shot doesn’t work for you, at least you can delete it later. In the days of colour transparencies, you couldn’t delete them and each shot had a cost attached. Even then you couldn’t see how it had come out!

Work the scene

So my advice is to find a suitable beach and “work it” hard, but in a relaxed fashion. Enjoy both the atmosphere and the images you find.

Natural detail :: On a beach there's fine detail is all around.

• Fine detail everywhere •
Find a suitable beach and “work it” hard. The natural detail is all around.


Photography should be fun and not a chore. I used to be most concerned if, after 3 or 4 weeks shooting in the Hebrides, I came home with very few images. Nowadays it doesn’t bother me so much, as I have revelled in the hidden beauty of the wonderful Hebridean Islands.

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Ruari Cumming ARPS (contributing author)

Words and images by: © Ruari Cumming ARPS/Hebridean-Island-Images.com
Ruari has been photographing the Hebridean Islands for many years. He is a distinguished photographer holding the “ARPS  External link - opens new tab/page” award. He continues to take stunning pictures of the landscapes, beaches and people of the Islands. He also regularly gives talks on his work. More… Hebridean Island Images Hebridean Island Images | External link - opens new tab/page

How to prepare for a photo safari and what to take

The King

• The King
Image by John de Jager • OnePhotography  External link - opens new tab/page

Going on safari – it’s amazing.

Photographic safaris should be experienced by every photographer at least once in a lifetime. They provide the perfect opportunity to photograph wildlife and nature as they are dedicated tours focusing on photography.

What is on offer on a photo-safari?

Most offer private vehicles allowing the photographers to focus on specific wildlife, spend the needed time with the wildlife to get the shot, and allow for a more flexible approach to the safari. Most importantly, the safari is hosted by an expert wildlife photographer to assist clients with getting the perfect shot and then processing the images.

How should you prepare

• Contact the operator of your chosen photographic safari company and confirm with them what their recommended equipment is. This can vary from area to area, especially with regards to lenses. Some reserves allow vehicles to follow animals off road and one can get away with shorter lenses e.g. 200mm. Other reserves are more restricted and longer lenses are required e.g. 600mm.
• Spend time getting to know your camera and equipment. Wildlife photography is not static. You will see fast moving subjects and shifting light. You should be able to change settings quickly.
• Practice by photographing pets or birds in your local home area. Get a feel for photographing a moving subject. (You can get some more advice on this in our action photography course – Editor).
• Beginners and amateurs, don’t worry! This is exactly why an expert wildlife photographer joins you on safari. The host will assist you with the best camera settings and how to get the best out of your camera.

On a mission

• On a mission •
Click to view large
Image by John de Jager • OnePhotography  External link - opens new tab/page

What you should take

Once you are out in the field it is not easy to get more equipment. Think ahead…
• A camera and lens within your price range (some operators offer equipment rental). Lens wise, it is good to have a wide angle lens for landscapes and a telephoto lens for the animals.
• An external flash with spare batteries is well worth having. If you can also bring a wireless flash transmitter to avoid “red-eye”.
• A shutter release switch for star trails and possibly an (intervalometer).
• Take enough memory cards (high speed). I have shot 8GB in RAW images in less than an hour on safari before, so it is important to have enough backup memory space available. Some form of external storage device to transfer images onto after each safari is advisable too. The reason why I suggest high speed cards is because in wildlife photography you will often shoot in high speed continuous mode. Card speeds affect how many frames you can capture in a burst of shots.
• Take spare batteries. You can be out on a drive for many hours at a time.
• A good laptop powerful enough to process images on Photoshop/lightroom or other post-processing software. Some operators offer monitors to uplink to for editing purposes but if not, bring a laptop with dedicated graphics and an RGB LED screen.
• A memory card reader or method of downloading your images to clear your memory cards each day.
• A good lens cleaning kit is essential. Being out in the field leads to dust collection!
• Insure your equipment! Weather can be unpredictable and I have had a client lose a Canon 600mm lens in a freak wind storm that caused a log to fall on the lens. The lens was not insured…!
• Bean bag or vehicle mount to hold your camera nice and still while shooting.
• Plastic packets, waterproof camera sleeves or waterproof material! Thunderstorms are common in Africa through the summer months. So bring something just to cover up that lens or camera.
• Bring a lot of patience! Wildlife photography is often about waiting for the right moment. Under the guidance of your host and guide, this wait will be more than worth it.
• A willingness to learn and share. It is important on these safaris to be willing to learn, not just about photography but about the creatures you are photographing. The more you learn about animal behaviour. the better. It will allow you to anticipate your next shot. Share with the others on safari too. Everyone has some idea or technique that may just help others in the group.
• An ethical respect for nature is very important. Not only is it unethical to disturb animals to get a shot, but it can at times put you and the rest of the clients in danger.
• Adequate protection against the sun (hats, sun cream etc).

John de Jager (Contributing Author)

John de Jager is the owner of Onephotography  External link - opens new tab/page; a photographic safari company operating in South Africa. They specialize in luxury photographic safaris focusing on rare and endangered species found in South Africa – as well as all the classic wildlife. For details on your next photo safari go to http://www.onephotography.co.za/  External link - opens new tab/page or OnePhotography on FaceBook  External link - opens new tab/page for regular updates and stunning imagery.

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Three great tips for travel and street photography

Three 'Ain't a Crowd

Three ‘Ain’t a Crowd – Taken in Lisbon, Portugal
By Paul Donohoe – Street photographer
• Click image to view large •
By Paul Donohoe on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

Travel and street photography are a natural fit.

All street photography involves travel. Whether you are travelling round the world, or just across town, this article is for you. It all involves travel. Adventure awaits the traveller and street photographer.

Finding the location

How do you go about finding the best location for street photography in a new place? I am going to cover three tips to help any street photographer, wherever they are travelling, and regardless of the time they have. Each tip will require a little tinkering depending on your needs and preferences, and on the place you’re travelling in.

1. Explore with or without your camera – Play the Tourist

Yes, that’s right: with or without your camera. Surely, you are asking, a good street photographer always carries a camera? Well, sometimes, no. You can carry one as you explore if you insist, but it’ll work better without!

What do people say about tourists? They are so busy trying to get pictures of the things they are looking at that they end up seeing hardly anything at all. Here is tip one: play tourist but without the camera. Just wander around, looking at — and seeing — the sights. Soak up the atmosphere.

If you’re in a new place for a week or so, take more time to wander around. Of course, if you’re visiting for only a day then you might only take an hour.

Following this plan has advantages for the street photographer. Just looking at the sights gets the sightseeing part of the deal out of your system. It’s important for a photographer to spend time without a camera, just using their eyes. In a new place there are always new sights to see. This can be really distracting when you are trying to focus on the lives of the people carrying on amid the other eye candy.

As you explore, you will discover places that appeal to you. You will find where the crowds are, the interesting backdrops – the places you just know you will come back to.

Lisbon Wall

Lisbon Wall • After Escher
By Paul Donohoe – Street photographer
• Click image to view large •
Pauls-Pictures, on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

I saw this wall and climbed those stairs once or twice as I explored. I saw this image in my mind’s eye. Then when I came back with my camera, it was there waiting for me!

2. Research: the where, the what, the who and the when

It’s not hard to spend an hour on the internet looking at maps and other information. A lot of people will be content to conduct this research after they arrive at their travel destination, and that’s fine. For me, I like to prepare ahead. The planning, for me, is half the fun!

Are there events, festivals or other activities happening? Where do people gather? What about shopping areas where people stroll? Knowing these things ahead of time, will not only get you excited about your visit, but will start the creative juices flowing.

Check online for the work of other street photographers in the place you’re visiting. Read their blogs, think about their experiences. This isn’t so you can “copy” what they’ve done. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about where and what to photograph — and sometimes where and what not to!

Flea Market Stall Holders

• Flea Market Stall Holders •
By Paul Donohoe – Street photographer
• Click image to view large •
Pauls-Pictures, on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

Having heard there was a huge flea market twice a week, I headed there at the first available opportunity. I sometimes think markets were invented for street photography)

3. In street photographer mode…

Keep walking and exploring or focus on a favoured place you’ve found and stay there. You’ve explored and you’ve done your research. Now it’s time to get on with it and get some street photos! The crucial factor in being able to make good street photographs is to be in street photographer mode.

You will read that some people are always in that mode. Perhaps. However, here’s what I mean… To make good street photographs you have to be truly in the space and in the moment. You need to be in tune with the environment and with the people you encounter. In other words, you have to become “of the street” – you belong there, it is your space but it’s also a space you are sharing, even if only temporarily, with other people around you.

Keep walking. Go back to the places you discovered in your exploration and research.

So much of street photography is about feelings, intuition. If, by chance, you come across a space you feel is just right for you, sit awhile and watch the people go by. It might be a park, a town square, or even a train station entrance.

Walking or staying put: there’s no right or wrong. And you can switch between the two; sit for a while till you just feel it’s time to move on.

The picture at the top of the page is one of my all time favourites. It happened after I’d spent an hour just hanging around a small square five minutes from where I’m staying in Lisbon. You really do become invisible if you hang around in one spot long enough.

Three tips… plus!

So, there you have it – three tips for finding the best street photographs when you arrive somewhere new. Actually, there are a couple moew things… Have some fun while you’re at it. Whether you’re there for a day or a couple of months, take your time. There’s no rush – you’ll get the photos you’re meant to!


Paul Donohoe is a Social Documentary and Street Photographer currently travelling to random places as the fancy takes him and his partner. He is passionate about his art and takes his role as a photographer very seriously. He believes that there are no ordinary moments and there are no ordinary people and he has a simple but profound philosophy which informs his work: “Love, Compassion and Empathy are my guides”. At present Paul sells his work through his own Pauls Pictures  External link - opens new tab/page, and a number of fine art and stock agencies.

Pauls Websites

Instants Out of Time (blog)  External link - opens new tab/page
Pauls Pictures – Showcase and sales of Pictures by Paul Donohoe  External link - opens new tab/page
Pauls Pictures on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page


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Ten simple ideas to help your portraiture improve

Video

Video

Straight forward portraiture advice is difficult to come by…

In the video we have some great ideas that help you to map out a great Portraiture session. This is straight advice aimed at getting you to a good quality completed portrait as directly as possible.

I have to add that the book advertised in the video is also a great book. It is packed with some excellent ideas and written in a simple and easy-to-read way. If you are interested in following up on the book I can highly recommend it. My copy is pretty dog-eared these days!

 

Portrait and Candid Photography: Photo Workshop This is a great book packed with lots of hints, tips and ideas like the ones below. A really worthwhile read.

 

Ten points at the core of good portraiture

In the video Erin Manning highlights the importance of the following ten points…

  1. Don’t fix your subject in the middle of the frame. Instead, think about the rule of thirds – a more dynamic outcome.
  2. Poses and “cheesy” words to force a smile are false and make the photo look strained.
  3. Make your clothes simple and un-distracting. Forget patterns and fussy details. Simple solid colours help the subject to stand out, not the clothes.
  4. Avoid straight on shots with a big flash. The open pupil in the eye will cause light to reflect back to the camera and show bright red eyes… You don’t want your subject to look like red-eyed monsters. Use red-eye reduction settings if your camera has them.
  5. Vary your poses, angles and heights. The more angles you get the more you are telling a story about your subject. Get them in many different ways.
  6. Use flash to help reduce harsh shadows. The sharp sunlight of the middle of the day is very unflattering. The use of fill-in flash softens the shadows bringing out the subjects character.
  7. Look for great quality of light. Remember that hard light (harsh edges and strong contrasts) is very unflattering. Shoot in the later afternoon or early morning to get soft light with better colours. Use shade to reduce hard light if you are forced to work in bright mid-day light.
  8. Don’t stand too close and use a wide angle lens. This exaggerates the nose. Stand away and zoom in. This reduces nose size and is much more flattering. (Great advice).
  9. Pay attention to the background. If it is too busy make sure there is nothing distracting. Check to make sure the background has not created odd effects like poles sticking out of heads and flowers in ears!
  10. Make sure you have enough battery capacity and memory card space to cover the whole session. You don’t want to lose any shots when you are in full swing.
Erin Manning’s Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Great Portraits


Erin Manning

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Tips and Tricks

• Oil and water •

• Oil and water •
These bubbles of oil in water were shot with a
Canon 50 mm f/1.8 and a +10 close-up filter
Click image to view large
Oil and water • by ArchaeoFrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Easy, budget macro.

Macro or close-up photography is accessible without investing in a pricey macro lens. The first three articles in this series covered techniques for inexpensive macro-level results: close-up lenses, reverse rings, and extension tubes. In this article, I offer suggestions for achieving great-looking results using any of these three techniques.

Choose Your Depth of Field

Depth of field is a term that refers to the area of the image that is acceptably sharp and in focus. Depth of field is a function of many things. Our interest is in three factors. These are aperture, the distance between the camera and the subject, and the orientation of the subject relative to the camera.

Aperture has a direct influence on the depth of field. A wide aperture (smaller f number, such as f/1.8) creates a shallow depth of field. Areas of the image outside of the zone of sharpness fall out of focus quickly. Wide apertures can be used to create bokeh – unsharp sections of the image.

A narrow aperture (larger f number, such as f/22) creates a deep depth of field. The majority of the image is in focus. Narrow apertures are often used by landscape photographers to capture front-to-back sharpness throughout an image.

The distance between the camera and the subject also influences the depth of field. Generally, the closer that you are to your subject, the narrower the depth of the field becomes. This is particularly important when using macro and close-up photography techniques where you need to be physically close to the photographic subject.

• Bokeh penny •

• Bokeh penny •
Penny shot with a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens and a full set of three, generic extension tubes (7, 14, and 28 mm). The plane of sharpness lies parallel to the flat of the lens. If the plane is not parallel the focus is quickly lost.
Click image to view large
Bokeh penny • By ArchaeoFrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

It is also important to consider the orientation of the subject relative to the camera. The depth of field can be thought of as a plane that is parallel to the camera lens. If you can orient yourself so that the subject is parallel to the flat of camera lens, more of your subject will be in focus than if it is at an angle to the camera. In the penny shot above, I tilted the camera lens slightly away from the parallel position. The loss of focus from right to left is obvious.

• Flowers and Depth of Focus •

• Flowers and Depth of Focus •
Click image to view large
• Flowers and Depth of Focus • External link - opens new tab/page

The flower photographs show how depth of field influences an image. Both were taken with the same lens (Canon 50 mm f/1.8), the same aperture (f/1.8), and the same technique (reverse ring). Both images have a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) and are close to the subject. The appearance of the depth of field is very different. The yellow flower (left) is sideways to the camera. Only the closest edges of the petals are within the depth of field and are in focus. The purple flowers center is shot parallel to the camera. The entire center of the flower is within the depth of field and appears in focus.

If you want more of your subject in focus use a narrower aperture. Increase the distance between yourself and the subject, and set the camera (and thus the depth of field) parallel to the subject. If you want less of your subject in focus, you can use a shallow aperture, get in closer to your subject, and orient the camera and depth of field perpendicular to the subject. Try it many different ways and see what works best for what you envision!

The Tripod: With and Without

It is possible to achieve acceptably sharp macro results hand-holding the camera. The majority of images in these articles were shot hand-held. If you have a stationary subject using a tripod will greatly improve the sharpness of your image. A tripod allows you to use longer shutter speeds. This helps you get crisper images in lower light. It also allows a narrower aperture to gain a deeper depth of field. The steadiness of the tripod will significantly reduce hand movement.

If available, also use the Live-View function on your camera to fine-tune your focus. Live-View lets you use your display screen rather than the viewfinder. Many cameras allow you to zoom in on a portion of the image to check the focus.

Without a tripod a good stance improves stability while hand-holding. Create your own tripod with your body by bracing yourself or your camera. In the diptych image below, I am using my elbows for support. The elbows in combination with my feet create a similar a three-point stability like a tripod. In the extension tube article, I demonstrated a similar human-tripod by bracing my elbows on my knees while shooting.

• Simultaneous diptych •

• Simultaneous diptych •
These two images were taken at the same time and show my hand-holding position as well as the image captured. The flower was shot with a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens.Click image to view large
• Simultaneous diptych • by ArchaeoFrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

This three-point position allows me to lean in and out very slightly with the camera. I can manually find the exact focus that I want in the photograph. Focusing with body movement allows me to place the depth of focus exactly where I want it relative to the subject.

More after this…

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When you are hand-holding practice breathing slowly and pushing the camera shutter button gently, without imparting additional motion to the camera. (More tips on stance)

Play, Combine, and Find What Works for You

You can use extension tubes in combination with either a reverse ring or close-up lens for even more detailed images. However, the working distance between the lens and the subject is narrow and the depth of field is incredibly shallow. With the pennies below, I found it impossible to keep both Mr. Lincoln and the columns of his memorial in focus together, as the columns are slightly raised relative to the surface of the penny.

• Penny diptych •

• Penny diptych •
These pennies were both taken with a Canon 50 mm f/.18 lens and a set of three, generic extension tubes (7, 14, and 28mm). In the left-hand image a +10 close-up lens was added, and in the right-hand image the lens was instead reverse mounted.
Click image to view large
• Penny diptych • By ArchaeoFrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Close-up lenses can also be screwed in to each other for greater magnification. I used both a +4 and +10 close-up lens for the snowflake image below. There is some distortion visible in the image particularly around the edges. I also found it more difficult to focus when looking through both lenses.

• Macro snowflake •

• Macro snowflake •
Snowflakes shot with a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens and a +4 and +10 close-up lens.
Click image to view large
• Macro snowflake • By ArchaeoFrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

The final curtain

The varieties of subjects for macro and close-up photography are endless. I have tried to highlight a variety of them during this series. Flowers, insects, and falling water are perennial favourites, as are coins, Lego figures, and other small objects. Your imagination and creativity are your only limitations. Enjoy!

• Macro snowflake •

• Lego water crown •
This Lego mini-figure and falling water crown were shot using a
Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens and a +4 close-up lens.
Click image to view large
• Lego water crown • External link - opens new tab/page

Articles on Close-Up and Macro Photography
by Katie McEnaney

Part 1 of this series focused on using close-up lens, Part 2 covered reverse rings, and Part 3 explained extension tubes.

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – close-up rings
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Reverse Rings
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Extension Tubes
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Tips and Tricks (this article)

By Katie McEnaney (contributing author)

Katie is an elementary school teacher in Wisconsin, USA. She is an avid photographer with wide interests. She is always interested in learning more and growing in her photography. Katie is in the third year of her 365 project as ArchaeoFrog (profile)  External link - opens new tab/page. Her 365 project can be found at 365Pproject.org  External link - opens new tab/page and she has a growing body of work on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page.
By Katie McEnaney :: Profile on Google+

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