Tag Archives: Scene

Backdrops – make them yourself

Create your own backdrops.

Here is a quick and simple way to create a great backdrop. You can produce your own great designs with a little creativity.
Image from the video below.

The shots and the props can be creative

Great backdrops often make a picture. The simple ones are the best. They do not pull the viewers eye from the subject of the shot. Instead they focus your viewer on your subject. A backdrop should create an environment for the shot that both completes the scene and brings out the best in the subject.

Photography is creative and the backdrops should be too

There are a million creative things you can do with your pictures. Making backdrops can be equally as creative. In addition they add a new spin and level of creativity to your shots.

You can make backdrops out of wood, canvas, sheets, paper, metal… well millions of things. Be careful they are not too heavy. If they fall and hit someone they might be injured. Don’t make backdrops too flimsy. They might fall apart during the shoot. Apart from that the sky is the limit!

Here are some ideas I have seen used to good effect.

  • Autumnal leaves densely stuck to an old sheet.
  • Spaghetti stuck to an old sheet.
  • Chinese lettering enlarged in a copier and stuck on white wall paper liner.
  • Wallpaper of many designs.
  • Hundreds of pieces of string hanging down.
  • Dozens of electric lights hanging down.
  • Hundreds of Wooden scraps nailed to five planks in a random fashion.
  • White back drop paper with lightly pencilled circles drawn all over it.
  • A white sheet “tie and dyed” with various patterns.

I am sure you can think of many more creative ways to enhance your shoot with DIY backdrops. Just take a little time to think over what you need for your shoot.

Here is a Google search for “Creative backdrops images“. Plenty of ideas there to stimulate your thinking!

Some simple principles for good backdrops

Some backdrops are simply not right for the shot. Of course there are those artists who seem to make anything work. For those of us who need a little guidance, here are some principles to help you design your backdrop:

  • Do not make the backdrop stronger or brighter than the subject.
  • Choose colours that bring out the colours in your subject.
  • Use colours and designs that almost fade into obscurity allowing the subject to blossom.
  • Allow your backdrops to complement the subject – not clash with it.
  • Use texture, tonality and hue to vary the background so it appears to be slightly 3D.
  • Be careful that patterns do not emerge unless they are deliberate.

These are not rules. They are guidelines to get you started. Of course as your skill as a photographer and backdrop-maker develop you can make or break these principles. Have fun. Make great shots!

How to make your own studio photography backdrop – video

In the video below there is a quick and simple method of setting up a canvas backdrop. It can be done in a few hours. If you don’t have much space you can make it out of doors. Enjoy this video short and let it help your mind be creative.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer 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+.

A simple lighting technique with lovely light

The mobile phone light... soft and effective.

The mobile phone light… soft and effective.

Table-top photography works with soft light.

When you are doing still life shots you want soft, gentle light. Exposures can be longer so you can create lovely gentle shadow graduations. Your mobile phone provides an excellent light source for this. Here is how it is done.

White source image

The basic technique is to put a bright white image onto your mobile screen. When you display it on the mobile screen the illumination produces a white light. This is a wonderful, quite localised soft light for your shot. The steps in detail are…

  • Open your favourite image editor
  • Create a new image (approx size 800 pixels by 600 pixels)
  • Paint it brilliant (pure) white
  • If you are on your computer save the image then upload it to your phone
  • If you are on your mobile phone save the image to a known folder
  • When you want to use the light, display the image on screen

The white image on screen produces enough illumination to create the light you want for your table top image.

Other ways to use your mobile as a light source

Of course many mobiles are also capable cameras in their own right. So here are two other ways to use them:

Photographic light: Lots of mobiles have a “flashlight” app. This will allow you to use the camera flash as a photographic light onto your still life scene. Many on-camera (pop-up flash) flash units are very strong and have a harsh light. The flash on a mobile is often much softer and sometimes is coloured to be a similar colour to daylight (approx 5500 Kelvin). This ‘daylight balance’ is a great light and worth using if you have it. Prop your phone up with the flashlight app activated and start shooting.

Coloured light source: Traditionally coloured light is produced using colour gels. However, some apps on mobile phones can create both a white light or a range of other coloured lights. One such app for example is: Tiny flashlight + LED. This is an app. for Android phones, but there are other apps. for different operating systems. If you cannot find a suitable app. you can produce a colour image like the white one above. Store that on your phone and open the image when you want that colour light.

Versatile

While the light from the screen of your phone might not be very strong, for a long exposure that is not too important. The light is wonderful and soft. As it comes from a wide source it creates lovely wrap-around shadows. These are just great for still life. Other features of phones can help with the lighting for your photography too. So, have a look at your mobile in a new light – see what you think.

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+.

How to take photos – each important step in making a photograph

Infographic download - How to take photos

• Infographic showing the various steps in how to take photos •
A guide to what you should doing to make great images.
• Click to download printable full page version

Getting down to the detail…

Yesterdays article was How to take photos – each important step in making a photograph. Today I want to share the detail behind each step. Be warned! You might need to think again about your existing knowledge. Unlearning old ideas will help you to move forward and improve.

How to take photos – The location

Lots of people think you can just turn up and take pictures. Well you can, but often they are not good ones. Getting the best out of your location involves understanding what you’ll find there. Find out about the weather on the day. An idea of light levels and times of sunset and sunrise etc. is useful too. There have probably been lots of visits by others at popular destinations. Check “Google Images” for that site. Google will help with other details too.

When you arrive don’t just fire off loads of shots. Settle down and get into the location. Don’t make photography mistakes that mean you miss great shots. The first time you do this consider a variety of shots. Think about more than one shot, think about the whole shoot.

How to take photos – Examine the scene

Considering the scene is an important part of the work-flow on site. Unless you have been there before you need to get to know it. Use all your knowledge about camera angles, composition, lighting, camera settings and so on. Take the time to examine your location while thinking of these things. Consider your feelings about the scene too. How you feel will help your shot be an impassioned response to the location. What you feel about the scene is the best guide on how to take photos at that location.

How to take photos – Review the light

Most photographers forget this step. They are too wrapped up in the scene and the camera settings or the passion of it all. This step will make or break your shot. Look at the light. If you don’t know what I mean read these:

Ask yourself some simple questions about the light…

  • Is it hard or soft?
  • Is it coloured or more neutral?
  • Is it at the right angle to best capture the location/scene?
  • What is the best time for the right light?
  • Is it very bright and intense or dull and diffused?
  • Do I need any artificial illumination (flash, diffusers etc)?
  • Is the shadow hardly defined (sun up high) or strongly defined (sun to the side)?

Lean about the properties and vocabulary of light. It helps give you a greater understanding of photography. These questions, and others, help you make decisions about lighting for your scene. For more on “How to take photos – Light and Lighting” see the resource page in the SUBJECTS/ARTICLES menu at the top of every page.

How to take photos – Create a mental version of the the shot

If you want to make a great image – have a great picture in your head of your intended outcome. Visualisation has helped athletes, artists, thinkers, inventors and others to achieve amazing things. Train your mind to visualise in detail. If you see what you want to achieve it will guide you when setting up your camera. Take the time to create that mental picture – in detail. Consider how you are going to make the best of the light when you consider how to take photos. More about visualisation… 80 year old secret of world class photographers revealed.

How to take photos – Compose the shot

By now you have an intimate photographic knowledge of your scene. Composing the shot is about realising that potential. Long-time followers of this blog already know something about composition. For first-timers you can get lots of information from our Composition resources page in the SUBJECTS/ARTICLES menu at the top of every page. Composition is a skill that evolves as you develop as a photographer. Knowing more about composition helps your awareness and skill develop. Read about it to gain insight. Think about it every shot.

How to take photos – Review and adjust the camera settings

Now you have a picture in mind, composed, and are ready to set up your exposure. The exposure is defined by your camera settings. Camera makers will have you believe that the auto-setting on your camera is the perfect exposure. The fact is they made informed guesses to arrive at that exposure. It is different for every model of image sensor. Modern cameras do make a good representation of the scene. It is not always what you want however. You can change the exposure by under-exposing, over-exposing and by using different apertures, ISO levels and shutter times. That is your interpretation of the shot. When you think about how to take photos, plan how you want the image to come out.

Having a visualisation in your head helps you set the camera up to make that mental image. You do it using ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. Even using one of the ‘mode’ settings is still a way of regulating your exposure. They all adjust those three basic facets of the exposure.

Here are some other links to pull together ideas about exposure:

How to take photos – Stabilise the camera

You want the photo to be sharp, crisp and clear. The faster the shutter speed the easier it is to get a sharp shot. But often, especially for a good quality shot, longer exposures are better. You need a good stance to hand-hold the camera. You will need a tripod (or other method) to steady it for longer exposures.

Stance is down to basic technique and comfort. The stance you use will be a personal thing for you. I have found many photogs have to relearn their stance after many years of a poor stance. It is best to learn a good one early. Here is my recommendation: Simple tips for a good stance

The use of tripods or other supports is a wide subject. It is also one that many learners tend to ignore- at least at first. When learning how to take photos sharpness is vital. Become acquainted with a tripod (preferably a good one) as early as you can. Your images will improve a huge amount. Here is some advice about tripods:

And, here is some basic advice about improving sharpness overall – The Zen of sharpness – 12 easy ways to improve

How to take photos – 15 second check

OK, that may seem like a long time. However, it is actually the time you need. You can get faster at it, but if you are taking a serious attitude to your shot then give it the time. You can find out all about the the 15 second check by reading these in order:

  1. An old sailors trick to improve your photography
  2. The fifteen second landscape appraisal
How to take photos – “Click”

This is where you press the shutter button. How you press that button can make a difference to your sharpness. Earlier, I mentioned this link, Simple tips for a good stance. It also gives advice on pushing the button without affecting sharpness.

An essential element of your shot is about confidence in what you have done. Today we are lucky. We just look at the back of our camera. Your first “click” may be a test shot. If your settings need adjustment then a simple technique called “Chimping” will help. Chimp and adjust. You will only need to do it a few times to get the shot right. You will not need to machine-gun the site with hundreds of “just in case” shots.

How to take photos – Work the scene

Chimping helps you set up for the shot and compose it. To get other possible shots you visualised earlier, you should work the scene. Repeat all the steps you have just done for each of the shots you foresaw. Working the scene is a skill and takes practice.

How to take photos – Time line

What is not obvious from the diagram is that the diagonal arrow is also a time-line of the shot. Of course it is a different length for every shot. You will have different problems to solve and ideas to consider for every shot. That’s fine. You have just learned a more careful, precise method for how to take photos. As you practice will quickly get faster at taking shots. But you will also make better images.

A promise

I can guarantee that if you follow the steps on this page you will…

  • Take less shots;
  • Get a better hit-rate (more usable shots per shoot);
  • Spend less time in post-processing;
  • Have better composition;
  • Improve your photography overall.

What is less obvious is that you will also save a lot of time.

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+.

Work the scene…

Serious About Photography? Work the scene.

Serious About Photography? Work the scene.

In order to get the best you have to do the most

There are two things you have to accept about photography. One, you are going to take a lot of photographs. Two, you will get a proportion of them wrong. It’s a photographers lot. If you want to get the best out of a scene you have to work it until you get THE shot. Learning to work the scene is about learning to be a photographer.

Finding the scene

There are lots of ways to find a scene. Planning, knowing, researching, discussing… well you get the idea. However, the most difficult scene is one where you discover ‘something’. Ever had that feeling? “Here I am – I think I can make something of this”. If you are anything of a photographer listen to your intuition. If you have had your photographic eye attracted to a scene there is probably something there. Now you have to work the scene to pull off the shot.

Test the scene

Take a test shot. Just do it. Now you have to look at your picture and see whats there. Look at it, look at the scene, look at the shot. This process gets you into the idea of framing the shot.

Now walk around a bit. Look at the background. Look at the angles. See the foreground – look into the background. Consider your rules of composition. Decide on what the detail is you want. Decide on what to include or exclude. Too much clutter and the shot is ruined. Too little content and the scene is empty.

Work the scene

Pick what you think the shot is going to be and start to work the shots. Here is some things to try…

  • Walk the subject – get all the distances
  • Shoot from far away – from the sides far away too
  • Shoot close up – from as many sides as you have access
  • Shoot from different angles
  • Take shots from high level
  • Take ground level shots
  • Use a foreground element in your photo
  • Use a background element to balance the shot
  • Work the light, try all the different ways to get the light on the subject
Work the camera

When you have the composition right – the elements in the right place – get your camera working…

  • Change your depth of field (aperture)
  • ISO… work the exposure brightness
  • Time value, work the shutter speed
  • work the sharpness -> pull out the tripod when you have your shot
The most important thing is to work it

Ultimately the shot is going to be about composition. When you are getting into the scene the composition is something you should study with total compulsion and commitment. Be obsessive. As you get a feel for how to working the scene you will gradually find out more about what works. However, even the most practised photographer still needs to work the scene. New scenes also present new problems. So never just follow one procedure. Try to think of a new way to walk the scene for every situation you encounter. That will help your photography stay fresh and vigorous.

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer 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+.