Category Archives: Projects

Black and white is fun – try monochrome

Reflection of a girl in a shop window

Reflection of a girl in a shop window. There is more to monochrome than black and white photography. Single colours are a great way to express yourself.

Give your shots a new dimension.

There is something exciting about black and white. The use of one tonal range gives a simplicity that is a new dimension. You can do the same working with one colour other than grey.

In “Don’t photograph in black and white” I said it is better to take a shot in colour with black and white processing in mind. Well, it need not be just black and white. Some photos work really well in other monochrome colour tones. There are several ways you can do it and I am going to set out some ideas for you to try.

Getting the shot

There are many ways you can get a monochrome shot in camera…

  • Find a monochrome subject. My shot above is an example. This girls face reflected off a shop window. The predominant cobalt blues in the shop display created a perfect monochrome reflection in blue. I fired off an opportune shot! So look for situations where you can pick up a monochrome appearance. Reflections are a great opportunity.
  • Filters. There are an amazing range of photographic filters on the market. There is a whole range of colours. Using these you can colour your image as you take it – strong filters will impart a monochrome overall. You will need to experiment however, filters change the nature of the light entering your camera. You might get some surprising results!
  • Gels. Photographic gels are coloured material that colour light. You can, if you stretch it tight, put thinner gels over the front of your lens. This will colour the light as it enters the camera. Try to make sure there are no wrinkles or you will get dark lines across your shot. Although, you might artfully arrange wrinkles to give your shot a unique texture as well as colour. If you use gels you might need some strong lights, hard light is best. Gels tend to be quite colour saturated. So they need the subject to be brightly lit so you see details. Its all part of the fun!
  • Coloured light. Using gels you can also light the scene with a strong colour. Deep red, blue or green gels make some really erie colours and impart some interesting shadows. If you use your gels in conjuction with strong house-lights the colour-cast will be enough to completely colour the shot as a monochrome. Moody and atmospheric shots are especially good with strong gels. They make for some great scenes. If you have an off-camera flash you will be able to try a wider range of shots with brighter results too. Just lightly tape the gel onto the lens of the flash so it shines through the gel when the flash goes off.
  • Shoot through glass. Shop windows, especially armoured glass often imparts a greenish tinge to everything you see through it. It also gives a sort of dreamy, almost watery feel to the shot. Try taping a small piece of glass like that to the front of your lens hood.
  • Colour ordinary glass. There are many types of colourant that will go on a small piece of glass. Various paints, makeup, inks, food colour… I am sure you can think of a few others too. The single colour will be imparted to the shot. Some of the things you put on will give an inconsistent coverage. More creative fun can be had by producing patterns on the glass with your colourant. Then you will be able to influence not only your monochrome shot, but also the texture of the exposure.
  • Processing. There are a whole range of ways you can get some shots to be post-processed in a monochrome. You could just have a go with your favorite image editor. Experimenting is a great way to learn. I will also be doing a future article on monochrome processing here.

I hope those ideas give you great creative thoughts. Activities like this are fun and great for extending your skills. Just make sure you keep exotic liquids, paint and chemicals off your lens. They may damage the coating on the glass.

Some quick tips for still life inspiration and shots

You can find some surprisingly artistic displays in shop windows.

You can find some surprisingly artistic displays in shop windows. It is easy to get some great ideas for still life work later. Or, you can just photograph them in the shop.
Click to view this image in full size.

Get some easy but creative still life shots

I love shop windows. I especially like those boutique type shops where the owner has a sense of art. Shop window displays are by nature well designed, artistic and attractive. Well, they are if the owners want to entice people into the shop. Here is an idea to help you out with your still life shots.

Still life inspiration

Window displays are usually simple and attractive. The shop owner doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on the display. They do want it to draw customers into the shop. Take advantage of this artful situation. Look at the the picture above. It’s a simple box constructed from rough wood, lined at the back with a scrap of net curtain. Wow. Effective. You could display all sorts of things in this. There are also dozens of ways to light it. Here is a simple and effective way to really emphasize your product, your still life, your collection… you name it. Great inspiration. So, take a walk up the high street and see what still life shots you can think of from peering into shops. (More after the jump…)

Display photography

The shot above, ‘Shoes in a box’, was actually taken in a shop window. I do quite a lot of these. The shots are easy to do. They give you great ideas too. More to the point, if you take them after dark they are usually under pretty good lighting too. One walk up the high street after dark about every month and you will come back with a crop of great still life photographs. Everyone will think you have great creative skills. In fact you are getting ideas from shops and getting some great practice.

Here are some points to help you and some things to consider…

  • Remember to be properly prepared for night photography.
  • Turn off auto-focus – focus manually. Auto-focus will focus on the window glass if reflections get in the way.
  • If you use a flash make sure that you know how to turn it’s power down. Shop window shots are quite close-up and flash is pretty intense. It is possible to overpower the shops’ display lights. This will seriously change the character of your shot.
  • Use a diffuser on a flash to make sure you don’t get hard light flashes off the shop window.
  • Reflections from street lamps on the glass? Hang your coat on a tripod to block the light beams or get your friend to hold the coat up.
  • Use off-camera flash. It is best when shooting through glass. You can angle the flash away from the axis-of-light to your camera. Camera mounted flash tends to give a strong flash-reflection right in front of you.
  • Shoot from the side (at an angle), not straight at the glass. You will be less likely to see your own reflections in your shot.
  • If you do this at night make sure you have a friend for safety and help.
  • Don’t look suspicious. If you work openly and tell people what you are doing if asked everyone will laugh and be on their way. I have done this for a number of years and never had an ‘incident’.
  • If you are accosted or you appear to have upset someone then stop what you are doing, apologise and move on.
  • No-one, including the police can make you delete a photograph. See: The Right to Take Photographs (UK relevant).

I have had some great fun and some great ideas with window-shooting over the years and you will too.

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Project Based Learning is Best

Colins Complete Photography Course.
A great book available on Amazon

The best way to improve is to do…

When you read a book, you learn things. However, practical application is different to book knowledge. I am reminded of a great line in a film, “…there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path” (Morphus – ‘The Matrix’). In Collins Complete Photography Course you get to “walk the path”.

Actually doing photography is what teaches us to move forward. This book is about taking our inspiration, our passion, and developing our skills through project-based photographic work. Its about getting involved; getting inspired. Learning through projects.

This is a project based way to take the important steps that lead you to get control of your camera, get control of your ideas, get control of your confidence. Step by step the book takes you through the things you need to master photography. By inspiring you to undertake projects it helps you to get an insight into one interesting aspect of photography at a time – learning from inside the experience. It is a great book to grab your enthusiasm and to express your art… while learning.

Here are some things that others have said about: “Collins Complete Photography Course

“This is a really instructive book…” By Mrs. C. Leigh.

“…if your photography has gone a bit ‘flat’ or you’re struggling to find a subject, it would be worth buying this book for the inspiration alone.” By J. Mousley

“An excellent book for anyone starting on their photographic journey…”. By ‘Fellingmal’

 
If you want to move your photography forward this book can take you on a great journey. It is an opportunity not to be missed. Buy it now…
Collins Complete Photography Course


Knowing Your Wildlife Subject

Find out everything you can about your wildlife subject

Find out everything you can about your wildlife subject. It will save you time and you stand a better chance of getting the shot you want.

Do your research in good time before your trip

Photographing wildlife is one of the most satisfying photographic subjects. When we get a great shot we feel terrific. However, if your back-to-nature shot is to be a success then you should make sure you know what you are doing. Preparation and research is essential. Find out how to improve your chance of a good wildlife shot.

Define the shot you want

For any sort of wildlife consider what you want to achieve… and what is practical. Doing a Google image search for the animal you want to shoot will reveal hundreds of pictures that relate to your subject. It really helps to go through those and see what is possible, and what you like. Getting ideas about shots will help you to visualise what works. On location it will also help you clarify ideas for when and how to take the shot. Pick out a few pictures you like. Review them often to keep what you want in your mind.

Research the creature

A lot of photographers go on location to photograph a particular animal and never see one. They appear on location assuming they will find an animal but don’t know where ‘exactly’ to look or when. Wildlife is often rare, shy, wary of humans or deep in the natural cover of the landscape. Knowing roughly where an animal or bird lives is definitely not the same as knowing its habitat or how it uses its environment. Read up on Wildlife Photography. Make time to learn the nesting, habits, feeding and hunting activities. Without a good knowledge of these you will stand little chance of tracking down your intended animal. Read the work of experts. Then you will be able to build up a complete understanding of the animal and how to photograph it in the wild.

Health and safety

This is about both you and the animal. Wild animals are just that – wild. If you disturb them they may, in their surprise, attack you. On the other hand, if you surprise them they may abandon a nest or kill their own young as a result of the stress. Often wild animals are only found in wild places too. Most of us today are not used to these places and don’t know the ways of the country very well. Chasing an animal down in unfamiliar territory (mountains, wild open areas etc) could prove hazardous to you. Particularly in the winter.

Get to know the shots and the areas where you will get them by going on guided shoots. There are lots of companies that specialize in overseas and local wildlife shoots. They will know when the animals will be visible and where to find them. They probably have great hides to use while observing and imaging your chosen beast. They will also be able to show you what is the best equipment to use for photographing and tracking down you chosen animal.

Get trained up to cope with the environment you will be shooting in. Too many people each year get lost or die because they had no idea how to cope with the conditions they encountered. That could have been avoided with a few simple, and fun, sessions with expert trainers.

Knowing the moods of your subject

Using guides will help you get to know more about what you can reasonably expect from a shoot. You will find out about the animals moods or habits and what time of day it is out-and-about. The mood of an animal is all-important to the shot. Catch it doing anything natural and you have the type of shot that is a winner. However, if an animal is stressed or wary, scared or protecting young – your shot is unlikely to be what you want. Knowing the mood and normal activities of an animal is crucial to getting the candid shots that make great photos.
More after the jump…

Composition

Great wildlife shots are also about Composition. A good wildlife photographer works within the environment. They know all about where they are and what they are after. They place themselves in locations for the best shot of their animals. If you don’t have a natural and pleasing background for your shot all your efforts will be wasted with the animal. Hides, walls, tracks, vehicles, local roads and buildings can all impact your shot. So you need to give careful consideration to not only the location of the shoot, but where you will be pointing the camera when the animal happens past.

Time

Wildlife photography can be very time consuming. Good wildlife photographers may wait weeks for a particular shot, or some such length of time. If you visit the Wildlife Photographer of the Year External link - opens new tab/page website you will see comments next to shots by the winners about the photos. Sometimes they mention their preparation and time. It is useful to see what is involved.

Don’t always expect to come back with what you want. You may be lucky. I hope you are. But, whatever, be patient. Wildlife photography is great fun, very rewarding and often fruitful. Success only comes consistently if you know what you are doing.
Enjoy!

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Are you getting enough? Personal Projects

This year candles are the theme of my personal project

This year candles are the theme of my personal project

No one seems to have enough time to do all they want these days. Life is certainly busy! Often this means the things we are passionate about get left out of our lives. As photographers we forget to take photos until the ‘right time’ – which never seems to come. I find it helps to have a personal project to keep my mind focused on the year ahead and to ensure I put time into my own personal photography.

Here are a few reasons to start a personal project…

  • It gives you a reason to take photographs
  • Your project acts to help you focus on a subject
  • When you are not inspired you can just play with project ideas
  • It helps keep you motivated
  • You build up a library of images on one subject
  • You get to know the techniques of that subject really well
  • Your creativity is given the chance to explore something in depth
  • When the project is done you could run an exhibition for family or friends
  • You can be inspired by trying out the project theme in new places
  • It gives you a reason to look at other peoples work on the subject
  • Find out how great photographers have photographed your subject

There are many more reasons to do a project, these are just some of the ones that have motivated me in the past. If you take a few minutes and write out a few ideas why you want to do a project it will help you commit to the subject.

Your project is your own, and only you can determine what direction it takes you. So it helps to plan it out a bit. Maybe set yourself some goals. Here are a few examples…

  • I will finish my project when I have 100 quality images of my subject
  • A quality image is one that I am proud to show family and friends
  • I aim to improve my use of Depth of Field and bokeh on this project
  • I will aim to take at least 50 photographs of my subject per week

Of course you don’t need to follow my examples. You might think 100 exhibition quality images is too much for the time you have. Great, set the project up to suit you. You may not want to improve your use of bokeh (that lovely blur of bright objects in an out-of-focus background). Why not concentrate on another technique, say, greater use of deep shadows as a compositional feature. Anything, especially things you want to improve.

A personal project is a great way to help integrate your photography into your life. If you choose a subject that can be found in everyday life then you can do some shots in your lunch break or whilst commuting. In short it gives you a reason to keep taking photographs. That’s a good thing right? More of what you like and enjoy will help reduce stress and increase the fun in your life.

Having an exhibition or promising a presentation for someone is a good way to tie up the end of your project. It gives you something to aim for. However, it can be fun to just produce a web gallery, or publish a sequence of the shots on YouTube. You never know it might go viral!

In the first part of this year I am going to make ‘Candles’ a personal project. You can start a personal project any time and for any duration. So get going on it as soon as you can!

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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