Tag Archives: How to Shoot

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+.

Ansel Adams – a photography legend

A documentary about Ansel Adams.

• Ansel Adams – a documentary •
[Image from the video]

Images that expressed the majesty in nature.

Ansel Adams became a legend in his own lifetime. He saw something special in landscapes. That “something” bought alive the majesty we feel when we are awed by natural landscapes. Yet he was much more than a photographer. He was a musician, thinker, energetic conservationist AND an extraordinary photographer.

Special talents defined Ansel Adams

From early in life Ansel Adams was fascinated by music. He taught himself to play the piano. His father saw an extraordinary talent emerging. He took him out of school to concentrate on his music skills. He was home educated using some of the best instructors and teachers available. His musical skill developed and he exhibited great talent. Then in 1916, he encountered a book which excited an interest in the big landscapes that became his life’s work. His father took him to Yosemite with the rest of the family. He later said of the this experience…

“…the splendour of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.”
Ansel Adams

During the first visit to Yosemite Ansel Adams was given a Kodak “Box Brownie” camera. From that moment his approach to the extraordinary landscapes that he loved so much was changed. He became transfixed by his photography. However, his love of music came first. For a number of years during his 20’s he pursued a career as a concert pianist.

Ansel Adams met the woman who later became his wife in a small studio where he was practising his piano while on his summer sojourn in the Sierra Mountains. The affair was on-and-off for a number of years. Ansel Adams struggled to reconcile the two passions of his life – music and the great landscapes of the Sierra Mountains.

In the summer of 1923 Ansel Adams, then 21, had, what he later described as, a “transcendental experience” while out in the mountains. He struggled for another seven years with his artistic inclinations and his ambition to become a musician. But finally the mountains drew him back and he had grown tired of the the petty politics of the life of a musician. From that time on he dedicated his life to trying to capture the wonder and sharp detail of his earlier transcendental experience.

Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film 2002

The most striking thing about this video is the way that Ansel Adams life is so carefully depicted as both an interesting story but also as a study in his philosophy as a photographer. He was filled with art, music and photography. Together they were a way for him to express his understanding of the power and awe to be found in nature. The video shows not only his personal philosophy but also some of the ideas and techniques that together made his photography so graphic, expressive and passionate.
Uploaded by: THE RAD PHO

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Using polarising filters

The polarising filter helps reduce glare in the photograph| Photokonnexion.com

• Beach Huts •
Using polarising filters reduce glare, reflection and colour fade in your photograph. These filters are easy to use and produce great results.
[Image from the video]

Filter with a hidden impact

Photographic filters are light modifiers. They have a variety of different effects. Polarising filters are just one type of photographic filter. When you look at one it appears dark. It looks as if it would have no effect except to reduce the light in your image.

What does using polarising filters do for your photo? Light from the sun tends to be scattered by the atmosphere. The waves of light are out of alignment. When the light is very bright the glare causes a bright haze of light. This over-brightness can act to overwhelm a photograph. It especially tends to wash the colour out of the sky, whitening it. Using polarising filters helps reduce the glare. It filters out some of the light that is not aligned. Only the polarised light passes through the filter. This aligned light has reduced glare allowing the colours to come out. Skies are darkened. Reflections are reduced.

The results of using polarising filters

The result of darkened skies, reduced reflections and better colours can be dramatic. Here are a whole range of images on Google using polarising filters Images on Google using polarising filters | External link - opens new tab/page.

Worst and best case scenario for using polarising filters | Photokonnexion.com

• Worst and best case scenario for using polarised filters •
Careful positioning and using polarising filters dramatically affects the outcome.

Using polarising filters can have a dramatic effects on your image. The top picture shows the worst case scenario. Light is almost directly into the lens. It is bouncing off glass and polished surfaces into the lens too. The sky is very bright with scattered light from direct, harsh sunlight. There is a hazy glare from brightness. There is also flare and very bright spots from reflections. This photo was taken without using a polarising filter.

In the second (lower) photo the position is different. The direct sunlight is not directly entering the lens. Even so, without using a polarising filter there would be problems. Notice the bright blue sky. This would have been a very washed-out blue on this very sunny day. Notice the windscreen is almost transparent? The polarising filter has reduced the bright reflections and specular highlights. The reflections on the bonnet are also pleasant and not over-white. The car paintwork has a quality colour-depth. The whole quality of the lower photo seems better. All this despite the harsh direct light.

Actually using polarising filters

In the video Mike Browne shows how to use these useful filters. In particular you need to remember three things of particular interest…

  1. Using polarising filters is most effective when the light is coming at the lens from about 45° off the optical axis.
  2. While using polarising filters you will need to rotate the filter to find the most effective polarising position. You need to re-adjust it every shot. Each shot will have a different angle of light to the lens.
  3. Using polarising filters reduces the light able to enter the lens. Your light may be reduced by over two stops with a poor quality version.


Mike Browne

Quality

High quality Polarisers are more expensive. They are time consuming and expensive to make. They also use expensive materials. However, the better ones maintain photographic quality. So it is worth spending the extra money. Poor quality polorisers may increase the digital noise from light scatter in the filter. They may also create aberrations and distort the image.

All photographic filters reduce the light entering the lens. A quality polariser will also reduce the light. But, they will affect the light much less than a poor quality polariser. Using polarising filters of a low quality may reduce the incoming light by as much as three stops. A quality polariser will tend to reduce light by only two stops (or less). So think carefully about what you purchase.

Buy now…

When buying a circular polarising filter make sure you get one that is the right size. The filter size of your lens is normally written on the inside of the front of the lens.

Recommended!

Circular polarising filters  A range of circular polarisers on Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page

When using polarising filters buy the size that fits your lens. Also remember that the quality of the filter can affect the photo. High quality polarisers reduce aberrations. A higher quality filter will not reduce the light as much as a poor quality one.

Review a range of different filters here…
Circular polarising filters  A range of circular polarisers on Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page

 

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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+.

Panorama photography – an introduction

Panorama photography | Photokonnexion.com

• Panorama photography •
There are a few important essentials to think about.
(Image taken from the video)

Getting started is easy…

Panorama photography is a great way to extend your photography skills. To make a panorama you take a whole string of shots. Then later you match them up in software and “stitch” them together to make one long image. The photographic variables are all fixed. You take lots of photos. But, only have to set the camera up once. This means you can concentrate on the scene.

Examples of panorama photography on Google images xxxx | External link - opens new tab/page

The essentials of panorama photography

Like any aspect of photography you need to have some essentials. Your camera and a lens get you started. But a tripod will give you more consistent results. It provides you with a firm platform. One that you can use to line up all the shots. A tripod is recommended because hand holding the shots can leave you with a whole bunch of badly aligned frames. Panorama photography is all about getting the full range of a scene. If you miss bits or fail to get neat alignment the image will loose its continuity. The eye is drawn a way from the image to the imperfections of the stitching.

To use a tripod properly you should also use a good tripod head. Set the camera up to get the scene you want. In this composition phase you will need to sweep through the shot. Look through the viewfinder and pan around the full scene. Get the tilt of the camera right. Have a clear idea of your sweep. Then, fix your tripod head so the camera will sweep through an arc without moving up or down. It will only pan “left <---> right” as needed. In the video you will see him using a “pan and tilt” tripod head. Once the scene is selected the tilt aspect is fixed.

Using the tripod and head means you will get an aligned sweep through your scene. This makes it easy to line up (stitch) the pictures together later. The fixed camera angles helps make alignment easy. But fixing the other settings also helps get consistent results.

Settings for the shots

There are some things that make panoramic photography easy. To get the best effect make each shot simple. Each should have settings the same as its neighbour. Wide variations of settings between shots make colours, brightness, tone and even focus create bad matches. The joins between images will show where the settings change. This disturbs the flow of the eye through the image. Here is a list of steps you go through to set up the camera – and why.

Focal length: As with the other critical settings set focal length to a fixed position. You should switch your auto-focus to manual so the focus does not change in each shot. Then, manually focus into the scene at a place that will give you good sharpness and depth. Then this should be left unchanged throughout the panorama photography sequence.

The exposure dial: Auto exposure settings change as you pan across different light levels. To avoid each frame being a different exposure use the “M”, or manual setting. Set up the exposure for the first shot. Then, keep that exposure setting through the the entire string of images. This means you will need to fix the settings for the full range of shots.

Aperture: Panorama photography is mainly about wide sweeping scenes. Landscapes are ideal. To make the scene realistic it is best to have sharpness right through the scene. Picking F11 is a good option for that. Practice your panorama photography with that F-stop to start. Once you have the techniques you can get more creative later.

Shutter speed: Hold the shutter speed fixed too. Your shutter speed depends on how you set your ISO, and the aperture too. However, don’t just think about the first frame. Study the entire scene. Is there going to be any variations in light intensity across all the shots? You want all the shots to have a similar exposure level. So do some test readings or shots with your camera light meter. Work out how much the scene varies. Avoid big light variation. It will make consistent exposure levels difficult. Look for even light across the scene. Then, find a shutter speed that will work well for all the shots.

ISO: As with the other settings, you want to hold the ISO. Choose a setting which suits the scene and ambient light overall. Fix it for all the shots.

White balance: RAW or *.jpg this is one time you MUST set the white balance to a fixed setting. If you use auto-white balance you will NOT be able to match the frames later. While white balance is generally quite stable, a colour cast from one bright reflection can significantly change the colour. That would not matter too much on one image. But it will if you have to try to match ten images each with a different white balance. That will end up giving your panorama photography a patchwork effect. Choose a white balance setting and stick with it for all the shots.

Getting the shots

Panorama photography calls on more than just scene composition and settings. Also critical is “overlap”. You want to join the images so they match. That means overlapping them in a way that allows a good join.

The skill is in picking features in your landscape you can use in the matching process. I like to use patterns or textures where possible. In the software you are going to line up each image with its neighbour. Those patterns or textures allow you to make a join look seamless. So, as you go through the scene make a mental note of where you want the join to be. Rotate the camera on the tripod for each shot. Make enough overlap each side of the frame for those points to line up. This is clarified more in the video at the end.

Landscape or portrait shots can be used for panorama photography. All the pictures need to be taken in one or the other. If you use landscape format the panorama will be very long and thin. If you use portrait format the stitched image will not be so thin. But you will need to take more shots to get the whole scene. You might choose differently for each scene. It is your choice. These choices are a key skill in panorama photography. Think carefully about your composition.

Panorama photography video tutorial

Most of the above are explained in the context of the shot sequence in this video. Panorama photography is great fun, but it does require a little thinking ahead and planning your sequence. The video should help you to fix the method and settings in your head.
What Digital Camera

Stitching the image together

There are two basic methods of stitching the final image. Again this is one of the main skills in panorama photography. You can do the work manually in an image editor. This work can be a lengthy and detailed process. Each image needs to be lined up by the patterns or textures you chose on the image as the overlaps. Then you might need to clone the images together. Bit by bit and image by image you can build up your final sequence. If you enjoy detailed image editing it is very rewarding.

The second method of joining the images is to use stitching software. There are lots of different applications available. Which one you use is a matter of personal choice. Some image editors have panorama photography stitching built in. For more advanced users there is also specialist software. These applications are available with a range of functions and prices. You should do some experiments and research to pick your preferred software.

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Buy a good tripod – nothing beats it

Good tripod as an all-rounder - Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod

A quality, versatile and robust tripod is essential. Buy a good tripod – you will not regret it! The result will be seen in every image.

A good quality tripod?

Nothing beats a good tripod. Most people don’t use them until they have struggled with sharpness problems for a long time. Then, without thinking, they buy a cheap tripod. Later they have to think again. That’s because cheap tripods fail, wobble and don’t give you the shot flexibility you need. To save problems later, I suggest you buy a good tripod now.

Why buy a good tripod?

Too many of my students and colleagues have told me tales of three legged woes. Remember, it is a common mistake to think any old ‘three legs’ will make your camera stable. This is simply not true. In all cases, a quality tripod really will help stability – and other things.

So, here are some reasons to go for a quality purchase from the start…

Quality Tripod:
Cheap & cheerful:
 Solid, stiff at the joints and stable.  Limited by poor engineering. Variable stability.
 Reliable, highly engineered and robust fittings.  Fittings regularly break.
 Quality, hard wearing paint or specialist coatings.  Poor or no paint – highly reflective aluminium. Liable to corrosion/wear.
 Quality footings seal the legs to stop water/dirt entering tubing.  Legs left unsealed let dirt in and grit quickly wears the joints.
Strong enough for a specific DSLR size and lens. Check the tripod specifications. Wobbly with anything larger than a bridge camera. No specifications available.
Quality materials used in construction. Materials matched to designed use and weight needs. Unknown quality aluminium/plastic.
 Top platform precisely engineered – no movement and good fitting for the tripod head/camera.  Wobbly platform, poor clip, loose fitting. Screws sometimes damage the camera. No interchangeable head option.
Quality joints on legs for long life and stable grip. Leg joints quickly wear and become wobbly with poor materials.
 Multiple leg positions to allow adjustment on uneven ground/tight spaces.  Fixed leg position.
 Fully adjustable top column to allow multiple height/angle adjustments.  Wobbly top column. Only up and down adjustment available.
 Legs can be adjusted to many wide/varied angles.  One angle for legs.
Stiff tripod legs to prevent movement when the legs are fully extended. Wobble increases as the legs extend to full length because joints are poor fit.
 Reversible top column – so you can under-sling your camera to get near the ground.  Not reversible.
 Proper hand grips.  No hand grips.
Quality Tripod head:
Cheap & cheerful head:
 Well engineered, interchangeable tripod head option available.  No interchangeable head fitting – or low quality flip-up with low quality quick release.
Well engineered, camera safety lock on the tripod head to prevent camera unlock/drop off. No camera safety catch.
Strong, accurately engineered, wear resistant, quick release plate on the tripod head for fast camera fitting/removal. Fixed camera position – or low quality/breakable flip-up with plastic quick release.
Manufacturer has a range of well engineered tripod heads and other accessories available. Manufacturer not committed to market and does not make tripod heads or non-interchangeable tripod head fitted.
A cheap tripod will not be your friend

There are other reasons to buy a good tripod, but you get the idea. A cheap tripod will do little for camera stability. The engineering quality is reduced to keep the price down. I am not one to advocate gear lust or spending money where it is not worth it. However, I have come across each of the design and quality flaws above. From personal choice and experience it’s clear only the best is good enough when making your camera stable.

Adaptability

While a quality tripod is great, you normally need to buy a good tripod head too. Cheap tripods usually without them, or have poor quality ones. A good tripod head is an investment for life. Inter-changeable heads are very useful. I have five heads for different purposes: for macro work; small cameras; panoramas; and one for precise adjustment. My most versatile head I use every day for general purpose work. The Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head External link - opens new tab/page is precise robust, reliable, versatile and has never let me down.

Buying a tripod

Buying a tripod is not simple. There are many online advertisements and many brands. How do you choose the right one for you? Largely it is about personal requirements. Look closely at the type of photography you normally do. Try to isolate the important aspects of your photography that will influence the way you use a tripod. Find the properties that best fits the purpose for your tripod. For example, if you do a lot of beach photography you should look for a tripod that has good seal caps on the legs to keep seawater and sand out of the legs. If you do macro photography in the field then you might want a tripod that will turn your tripod head upside down to hang your camera just above ground level.

You should also consider the tripod head. That is the part of the tripod that the actual camera is mounted upon. It gives you flexibility to point your camera without moving your tripod around. Good quality tripods are usually sold only as a set of legs. The tripod head is purchased separately to ensure a good match to its intended use. Reputable tripod manufacturers normally also have a range of heads to match their tripod products.

Weight is a big issue in the field

Many photographers forget about weight. A heavy tripod is great in a studio. It is stable and floor vibration is reduced. However, when you are out and about the studio tripod is just too much to lug around.

I have one tripod model with a steel frame I use in my studio. Also, I have a nearly identical model in carbon fiber. I keep the latter in the car for field work. The difference in weight is just over a Kilo. For practical field use the studio tripod is useless. Unfortunately, it is simply too heavy to carry far.

On the other hand, my carbon fibre tripod is a delight to use in the field. It is easily carried and it performs as well as my studio tripod. However, there can be shortcomings.

Near a road or in windy conditions, vibrations are a problem. So, I hang my camera bag under the tripod platform. The additional weight cuts down vibration and keeps the tripod feet stable. In fact, that is a small price to pay for the reduced weight. Furthermore, it keeps my camera bag off the ground.

The camera bag trick is only possible because carbon fibre is really stiff. Remember, flimsy (but light) aluminium frames are vibration prone. They cannot perform well in windy field conditions or where vibration is found. Moreover, cheap tripods often do not have an under-slung hook to hang your bag.

What should you pay?

Almost certainly, the cost of a tripod indicates its quality. Good tripods use quality materials and tend to be highly engineered. Good engineering and good materials are not cheap. So, if the price of a tripod is in the range £15 – £30 it is unlikely to be long lasting. Further, it will be of limited stability – especially after a little wear under field conditions. Tripods can actually transmit vibrations to your camera from the ground and wind. So, good stability and properly engineered joints are really important.

In the UK good quality tripods start at around £40. You can pay many hundreds of pounds, especially for a professional grade tripod. So, setting yourself a budget is important. Don’t overspend.

Balance quality and cost

The over-riding factor is what type of photography you will be doing with the tripod. Remember, the properties you need are your guide. However, as we said above, pay attention to the tripod quality you need too. There is a balance between good quality and cost. You have to be the final arbiter in how much you pay. Think about it, err on the side of quality with a tripod. A bad quality decision will impact the image quality of your shots.

The manufacturers

So, buying the right tripod is about knowing your own needs. It is also about knowing what type of properties your photographic interests demand of your tripod. Going direct to the manufacturers site and look at their explanations for each of their tripods. You will find more detail there. Moreover, make sure you look up the specifications. There lies the answer to many of your questions about the quality and performance of a tripod. Also, beware of the claims made for ‘general purpose’ or ‘light weight’. Without detailed specifications those terms indicate poor quality engineering or materials.

There are a good range of quality tripod manufacturers. Some names worth checking are listed below as a starting point…

    • Manfrotto – High quality engineering, wide range of accessories and designs for many purposes. Many models meet the needs of professional photographers.
    • Manfrotto on Amazon (associate link).
    • Benro – Strong, very robust, many designs for many different environments and purposes.
    • Benro on Amazon (associate link).
    • Gitzo – Quality engineering, some innovative ideas. Considered by both amateur and professional.
    • Gitzo on Amazon (associate link).
    Where to buy

    It is worth considering where you buy your tripod too. Manufacturers with proven reputations tend to have wide distribution networks. However, they often do not sell their products on their own websites. If they do have their own web shop, the products are often expensive.

    Reputable manufacturers depend on their agents and distributors world wide. If they undercut those agents they would not sell their products overseas. So, check their sites. Find what you want. Then, find a dealer near you who can supply it. Alternatively, go online to a dealer who sells the products. You will often get much better prices for shopping around. Another point, reputable manufacturers often have a list of dealers on their site you can contact who are local to you.

    Specialised tripods

    The range of quality tripods has become very broad. Today tripods are available for nearly every type of camera. Small point and shoot cameras, smart phones, bridge cameras, mirrorless and other cameras all have their own tripod requirements. Likewise, they also have their own quality requirements.

    I recently bought a cheap plastic smart phone clip to mount on a small tripod. It cost me very little. Because it was so cheap, I thought nothing of quality issues. It also broke the third time I used it. My phone dropped to the ground. Luckily the glass did not shatter. It could have been an expensive mistake. The replacement good quality, lockable smartphone clip cost about 25% more. However, there is no way my phone is going to fall out of the clip now! It was still cheaper than £20 (bought 2020).

    I have also benefited from buying good quality ‘Joby’ or ‘GorillaPod’ flexible tripods (associate link). They are quite expensive. However, you can do great things with them. Flexibility and adaptability are really useful in a tripod.

    The point is this…

    The lesson is, think carefully, find out everything you can. Then, make a quality purchase – get the best you can afford.

    Nowadays, I take my time making a tripod purchase. Consequently, my new tripod suits the purpose I have in mind. But, more important, my camera is safe. In addition, I have the flexibility I need to make the critical shot and I get sharp results. Taking care to seek out a quality tripod helps a photographer get stand out results.

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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+.

Portrait context is about the artist as well as the subject

Portrait context is important in photography

• Portrait context is important in photography •
[Image taken from the video].

Art in a portrait…

…includes much more than meets the eye. Photographers taking their first steps with portraits often see only the person in front of them. But the portrait context also includes the scene, the artist and their culture.

Portrait context – a historical boundary

Portrait art historically reflected the fashions and ideas of the time. For example early civilisations tended to depict people in profile. These flat two dimensional portraits were a mark of early Egyptian art. Much later, in the 14th century, the Renaissance masters did portraits as a three dimensional rendering on the canvas. They used artistic tools the Egyptians did not have.

Today the portrait context is still related to the knowledge and experience of the artist. And, they are partly bound by the conventions of their time, culture and so on. You can never fully be divorced from your context. But, we are free to take a wider, more context-free view of portraits. Artists and photographers are trained to take a broad, imaginative outlook. Art and photography schools give the imaginative freedom of students a wide scope. Breaking the bounds of traditional portraiture is a part of that freedom.

Breaking the bounds of portrait context takes careful thought

Portraiture starters often only see their subject through “everyday” eyes. Most of us are not trained in the ways of imaginative scene setting. So we tend to take portraits that represent our every day view of people. There is nothing wrong with that. Family, friends and others make a fun photograph. The images can be pleasing and satisfying.

Great portraiture goes deeper than that day-to-day view. To push the boundaries of your portraits, think in a different way. The portrait photog should consider their own vision and experience. They also need to think of the environment, cultural context, story and location of the shot. The photographer should understand who they are as well as knowing something of the portrait subject.

Of course knowing these things does not produce a great image. What makes a great portrait is pre-vision. It is how you bring out something in the subject, the scene or the portrait context that is remarkable. This takes a unique perspective.

The art of portrait photography

A strong portrait steps out of the everyday view. In the video we get the perspective of a number of portrait photogs. Each has looked into the portrait context in which they are working. With forethought and insight they have constructed artful portraits. They have also made driven and powerful images of their subjects. Each has a clear understanding of the portrait context. Each has a clear view of what they want to say.

The lesson is, look for a point to make. Understand both what you are working with and what you are working to express.
PBSoffbook  External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has also 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+.

Tripod myths – why are amateurs tripod shy?

Me and my tripod - reflected in paintwork - tripod myths

• Me and my tripod – reflected in paintwork – tripod myths •
I use a tripod most days in some pretty tight situations. They are
quick, effective and give great results!
[Image by Damon Guy • Click to view large]

Tripods improve your results – fact!

Tripod myths can be heard regularly. Actually they make life a lot easier and faster. So, why are amateurs tripod shy? Why buy cheap? Why is simplicity apparently so difficult for tripod starters? Read on…

What are the tripod myths?

Over the years I have heard all the excuses. Here are some things I have heard…

  • I’ll miss the moment!
  • Tripods are too much bother.
  • I can shoot great shots hand-held.
  • It slows me up.
  • I like to walk the scene…
  • They are cumbersome, get in the way and heavy.
  • It’s not possible or easy to use it all the time.

I am sure there are other issues. But let’s look at these in detail.

Tripod myths: Missing the moment?

Every photographer gets lucky sometimes. They happen to point the camera pointing right and, snap, they got it.

Let’s be honest. How many times does that lucky capture happen? “Journalists?”, I hear you say? Actually, they rarely get lucky either. Photo-journalists train in preparation, planning and investigation. Being there and aware when the event happens is not an accident. They get the story time and time again.

If you plan for your tripod you will get the shot too. You won’t miss the shot getting your DSLR out either.

Forethought and planning are good photographic habits. Cultivate and develop these skills. You get the shot, and it’ll be sharper. If you are going to shoot, do it properly. Have both camera and tripod ready. Don’t be a victim of tripod myths, be in control of your photography.

Too much bother? One of the tripod myths that is just silly

What can be too much bother about getting a sharp, properly framed image? Loading a tripod is no more trouble than putting your camera in the car. It takes only 15 seconds to set up. The tripod will also give you time and scope to take a great shot. It holds your camera for lens changes and while scouting the next shot. Bother? Not really.

Bothered people think tripods are hard work. Do they realise how much the picture is improved? Attention to detail over your shots is what makes excellent images. Taking a quick snap may be no bother. Its unlikely to yield a great image either. This is one of the tripod myths that does not stand up!

Tripod myths: Great hand held shots

There are lots of situations where great light and a steady hand can get a sharp result. Congratulations. The time and effort you put into your photography is paying off. However, of all the situations I take pictures in, only about a third can be hand held. High ISO might help. More likely digital Noise would spoil the image. Better to take a longer exposure and use, say, ISO100. Quality is important.

Tripod myths will limit you to one third of your potential as a photog. It makes you a limited photographer. Tripods extend your shooting time, flexibility and quality of image.

Tripod myths: It slows me up

Yes, finally, a fact! Tripods make you think about your photograph. Perhaps not one of the tripod myths, more of a tripod mistake.

Since digital cameras became common I see a lot of machine-gun photography. A keen photog arrives, sprays off a hundred shots… Then, off they go. Wow.

Spend the first few minutes considering options. Proceed with a plan and with care. Cover all the shots you need. Sometimes you will get new ideas. Great, get more shots.

Once, at an aircraft museum with a keen photographer I was alone in minutes. My friend shot out of sight. We met up later. He had over 1000 pictures. He was elated. I had less than seventy shots. “Ah!”, he said. “You should’ve left the tripod at home!”

Later that week things turned around. He had eleven fair shots and one really good one. He had spent hours and hours in post-processing and missed lots of sleep. My more careful approach paid off. I had more than 40 quality images. As he looked at them he kept saying, “I took a picture of that too, but it didn’t come out”. And, “How did you get that one to look so good?”. My care, quality and composition paid off. The tripod helped me think about my photography and take care. I only spent about two hours in post-processing too. Most on simple tweaks. I had plenty of time for other shoots that week.

One question… Who was really slowed up here?

Tripod myths: Working the scene

One of my regular jobs involves 15 – 20 finished pictures of a scene. Picture order and camera height is important. We often work in low light. Space is restricted at many sites. We are not allowed to do any post-processing.

This is fast work. In 15 minutes I make up to 35 shots at a high enough standard to meet the needs of a court case.

Does a tripod hold me up or prevent me working the scene? Does it prevent my shots? On the contrary. I could not do the job without it. I would have to take many more shots. My shots would be less flexible. I would not achieve court-ready sharpness and detail. Without a tripod I could not work the scene properly.

Tripod myths: Cumbersome, heavy, intrusive?

Sometimes. A tripod can be badly adapted for what you are doing. So, if you are going to do something a lot, buy the right tripod. Travel a lot? Get a light one. Work on beaches a lot? Choose sealed feet to keep the sand out. Working special scenes? Get a special tripod. General photography? Buy general.

If you have the wrong equipment you can rightly claim it’s no good! So, buy the right equipment for the job. Make sure you get a quality piece of equipment. You spend thousands on your camera and lenses, so there is little point in spending only ten on your tripod. Quality workmanship and materials are important to producing quality images. You would not accept less with your camera so why with your tripod? This is one of the tripod myths that does stand up – if you have the wrong equipment. Get it right and you have a friend for life.

Sometimes ya gotta go with the flow…

I am not saying tripods are everything. In fact there are many situations where they are not suitable or you can’t use them. Also, we all enjoy the freedom and creativity of hand-held shots sometimes. If we fall prey to tripod myths we will never get past auto settings and bright daylight shots.

All I am saying is, don’t limit yourself. Get past the tripod myths. Buy a tripod and make sure you know how to use it. Your photography will improve if you use it a lot. Use it only a little and you’ll pay a penalty.

Why not look at some of the options now…

General tripods for DSLRs  External link - opens new tab/page
Manfrotto – Quality tripods for committed photographers  External link - opens new tab/page.

Also check out this post and recommendation…
Buy a good tripod – nothing beats it
Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod Legs Only – Black External link - opens new tab/page

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
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