Tag Archives: Portraiture

Visual toolbox for photographers

Sharpen up your creative photography…

It’s easy when starting photography to over emphasis the importance of gear. In fact it’s ‘photographers eye’ that really makes the difference. Your vision and insight into a scene are critical to producing a wonderful image.

Sage advice from a world master

The Visual Tool Box by David duChemin is all about the skills of composition. He goes into depth around the background ideas which help you look at a scene. The ultimate success in photography is to make your image a pleasure to view. Aesthetics rule – it’s as simple as that. This book is dedicated to teaching you the tools you need to develop the ‘eye’.

David duChemin says,

These are the lessons I wish I’d learned when I was starting out.
The Visual Tool Box by David duChemin

This is my kind of book. He writes superbly, in simple, readable form. His examples are excellent and the pictures are just amazing. But most of all the book is organised for learners to extend their knowledge in easy, well structured steps. This book is all about putting new tools in your photographic tool box and it achieves that with an ease that any beginner will find a joy.

Composition

The book is packed with examples of the sort of compositional ideas that really work – for anyone. Just look at some of the topics covered…

  • Manual
  • Optimize Your Exposures
  • Master the Triangle
  • Slower Shutter Speed
  • Learn to Pan
  • Use Intentional Camera Movement
  • Use Wide Lenses to Create a Sense of Inclusion
  • Learn to Isolate
  • Use Tighter Apertures to Deepen Focus
  • Use Bokeh to Abstract
  • Consider Your Colour Palette
  • Lines: Use Diagonals to Create Energy
  • Lines: Patterns, Lead my Eye, Horizons
  • See the Direction of Light
  • Light: Front Light, Side Light, and Back Light
  • Quality of Light: Further Consideration
  • White Balance for Mood
  • Light: Reflections, Shadow, Silhouettes, Lens Flare
  • People
  • Experiment with Balance and Tension
  • Use Your Negative Space
  • Juxtapositions: Find Conceptual Contrasts
  • Orientation of Frame
  • Choose Your Aspect Ratio
  • Use Scale
  • Simplify
  • Shoot from the Heart
  • Listen to Other Voices (Very Carefully)

And there is plenty more content to complement and extends these ideas. What’s not shown in a list is the excellent and sage advice throughout the book. I will let David duChemin have the last word…

Pace your-self. Anyone can master a camera; that just comes with time. It’s the other stuff — learning to think like a photographer — that takes so much work and allows this craft to become the means by which you create art.
The Visual Tool Box by David duChemin

And it is thinking like a photographer that you will quickly learn from reading this book.

How to buy this great book

This book was originally published as an ebook. However, it is no longer available in that form. The book has moved into the real world. It will be available on Amazon as a Paperback From 31 Mar 2015.
The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs (Voices That Matter)You can per-order the book from Amazon.

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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+.

The power of light and shadow

Facial shadows

• Facial shadows •
Image taken from the video.

Great portraits rely on shadows

Shadows define a portrait. So it is no surprise that good lighting to get the shadows right is a wonderful idea. But what most people don’t realise is that, almost every time, more lights make things more complicated. One light is almost all you will ever need to get a face right. The rest can be done with a reflector.

Shadow work

In the video Mark Wallace shows us how the face can be properly illuminated, how to do it and more important how to make it look beautiful. He looks at ugly shadows and hard light and explains how to remove them and subdue them using soft light. In all, this is one of the best best portrait lighting tutorials I have seen on video. Enjoy it. There is some really useful stuff presented in a simple and understandable way.

Adorama TV  External link - opens new tab/page

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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’.

Buying a tripod – the essentials

Buying Tripods

• Buying Tripods •
Buying a tripod? There are a lot to choose from. So what should you look for?
Image from the video.

Why would you buy a tripod?

Because a tripod is of the central pillar of your sharpness strategy. Without a tripod you are denying yourself the opportunity to use a large proportion of the settings on you camera. Let’s look more closely at what this means…

Settings

Your camera has three primary controls…

  1. ISO – Controls how sensitive your camera image sensor is to light.
  2. Shutter speed – Controls how long your sensor is exposed to light.
  3. Aperture – controls how much light is allowed to reach the sensor.

These are inter-related. As we want a high quality result (with low digital noise) we set the ISO to around 100. Therefore, for our purposes here we are particularly interested in two of those settings.

  1. Shutter speed – movement blur created with long exposure; movement frozen at short shutter speeds.
  2. Aperture – Wide aperture, shallow depth of field; small aperture gives a deep depth of field.

Looking at these you need to consider how you do photography where only low levels of light enter your camera. Here are some examples:

  • Landscape – Use aperture f11 or higher. Small aperture gives Depth of Field, but lowers the light influx. Therefore you need to have a longer shutter speed especially during the Golden Hour. Hand-holding is not an option.
  • Portraiture – In bright sunlight a shallow depth of field (wide open aperture – blurred background) would overexpose the shot the shot.Use a Neutral Density Filter. This reduces light influx but means a ling exposure. A tripod stops handshake.
  • Still life: You are doing a still life requiring low light for the mood shadows. To get the exposure you need a longish exposure. You do some test shots. Your best exposure is with a shutter speed of one second. Tripod needed!
  • Fireworks: You need to hold the camera steady for about 1/20th of a second to get the full spread of the explosion. Tripod – essential.
  • A disco dance floor – If you want to capture movement you will need to work at around 1/60ths of a second. But you also need sharpness right through. You will need an aperture of f8 or f10. A Tripod is essential if you want the movement blurred and the rest of the room sharp.
  • Photographing a baby. Flash changes the mood and invites crying. It’s also harsh light. Baby skin loves natural light. Use a fast shutter and tripod. Make the composition right then watch the baby. Pick your moments and take several shots. A tripod helps you can concentrate on the right moment while baby is still and happy. You don’t have to recompose for every button push.
  • Family photo – Set the timer, join the group! A tripod is essential.

I could go on… there are dozens of everyday scenarios requiring a tripod. These are just the obvious ones. For sharp, quality shots I need to use a tripod around 75% of the time. My tripod is essential to my business.

If you are an amateur you probably cover more varied situations than me. You need a tripod for a high quality result. It is not uncommon for me to hear students say, “I never use a tripod, I don’t need one”. Then in almost the same breath, “Why are my pictures always blurred or dull?” The answer to the question is – to get a proper exposure you need a tripod.

Lots of people say, “A tripod just slows me up!” My response is simple. Most amateurs take ten shots to get one – and are not necessarily successful. A tripod actually saves you time. You can rely on one shot being sharp. In post production you review one shot for each composition, not dozens.

What to look for…

In general the main considerations are:

  • Well designed: smooth operation, strong leg clips so you can set the tripod at various leg heights.
  • Centre column: Solid, little movement, clamps solid.
  • Legs – variable wideness: You can spread the legs out wider and at different angles to each other.
  • Tripod provides a platform for different heads: Do not buy a tripod with one type of head pre-fitted. It may not be suitable for your camera and there are different heads for different types of photography.
  • Weight or lightness: Solid and heavy tripods mean a good platform. Lighter carbon fibre tripods are more expensive, but the carbon fibre has the ability to reduce vibration (especially when stressed by a weight bag hanging on it to steady it).

For general work I use this tripod…

Of course you need a good head on a good tripod. This head is my mainstay for most work…

A good tripod will last you years. It will be stable and steady even in wind. It will not wear out easily. A worthwhile investment. Don’t be tempted to go cheap. Look for quality brands with after sales parts and good design. Spend more and you will have a flexible friend that helps you in all aspects of your photography.

Have a look at these ranges of tripods. I use a Manfrotto for most situations, but there are other quality ranges. My Benro tripod is very rugged and nothing beats it on a beach or mountainside. Check out these links for a range of ideas…

Manfrotto tripods  External link - opens new tab/page

Gitzo Tripods  External link - opens new tab/page

Giottos Tripods  External link - opens new tab/page

Benro Tripods  External link - opens new tab/page

Which Tripod Should I Buy?

Mike Browne introduces this video with the basics of how to think about what you want in a tripod. What he says is good thinking. At the end two other photographers add their advice. I was impressed with the comments of both. There is a lot of great advice in this video.

Mike Browne  External link - opens new tab/page

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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’.

Learn to shoot while controlling the depth of field…

Depth of Field

• Depth of Field •
Work with Depth of Field in mind. It will help you to control the blur that provides soft and un-distracting backgrounds.
(Image taken from the video.)

Shooting with Depth of Field

The controlled use of Depth of Field (DoF), when done skilfully, is a central pillar of artistic success in photography. To learn how to properly control its use will help you to master many challenging situations.

Getting the measure of Depth of Field

Following the great response from “Understanding depth of field” yesterday, here is another video. In this one Mark Wallace shows how the three basic controls of DoF actually affect the clarity and blur in fields where depth of field is visible. It is important to watch the settings as he takes the pictures. Follow how the blur changes as the settings change.

SnapFactory  External link - opens new tab/page

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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’.

Facts about focus… how much do you know?

Orb Out Of Focus

• Orb – Out Of Focus •

Focus is more complex than at first sight.

Focus, and the associated functions on a camera, take a little time to sort out in your mind. Here are some fundamentals and some obscure facts for you to think about.

Focus facts…
  1. When you point your camera at a single colour, blank space, solid blue sky or night sky the auto-focus will ‘hunt’ for some contrast. The lens will be unable to focus but keep trying. If it detects a difference of contrast in the frame it’ll be able to balance it out and use it to create a focus. If your lens is ‘hunting’, find something with a bit of colour or light contrast. Then it will stop hunting and focus. More…
  2. The light from your lens focuses on the “image plane”, the flat surface that is also the surface of the Digital Image Sensor. The circle of light it creates is bigger than the sensor. The light that falls outside the sensor area is normally inferior to the light which falls on the sensor surface. This is because the edges of the lens creates an inferior quality of light compared to the middle part of the lens. More…
  3. There is such a thing as a “fixed focus lenses”… they have no focus capability. They are put in the camera at time of manufacture and set to give a deep focus from a few meters through to infinity. Can you imagine why such a lens would be used in a camera? More…
  4. Bokeh appears in out-of-focus areas. Some people think that the prominent little circular highlights are the bokeh. This is incorrect. In fact bokeh is a statement relating to the quality of the out-of-focus blur. The blur itself is called… blur! More…
  5. Macro lenses are highly effective at focusing at short distances from the lens and to enlarging the image. Actually they will also focus at other distances too. Macro lenses produce a great portrait. More about macro lenses…
  6. When a lens lets light through the light follows something called the optical path. The focus is achieved on the optical path. However, in a DSLR when the mirror is down, the optical path ends up at the eye. The optical path is not the same all the time. More…
  7. Where you focus affects your exposure. Most people assume focus and exposure are two separate things. And, in fact, they are. But, your camera senses the light conditions where you are focusing and sets that focus at the same time as taking readings for the light meter. Change your point of focus and you may change the light reading. Even a tiny movement may change your exposure readings if your focus changes from a lighter to darker surface. Useful to know if you are in a darker environment with bright light sources around. Especially useful if you are trying to learn manual control.
  8. The ‘sensor plane’ is the surface on which the image is projected by the lens. It is the surface of the sensor itself. In former times it was the same surface that the film was laid upon. Any idea what other names might be applied to the same surface in a camera? More…
  9. Sometimes it is important to measure your focus distance precisely. For example if you want to repeat shots or vary the distance form camera to focus-point by a measured amount in a series of shots. Such measurements are often used in forensic photography, macro work and for working out scene sizes and distances. There is only one place where you can take a true measurement from on a DSLR. It is clearly marked. Know what it’s called and where it is? More…
  10. Consider turning off your auto-focus when using a tripod. The motor that works the auto-focus creates vibration that may affect your shot. It is less likely to have an effect on long exposures, but if you get into the habit of doing it you may help to sharpen your shots. Reducing any vibration is good when you are trying to sharpen your shots.
  11. The Plane of focus is a very important concept – it is about where you are focussing. It gives you an idea of what your focus is doing at any angle of the camera. You should really have a good idea about it if you want to make sure you are getting a proper focus on the subject of your shot. More…
Lots more to learn…

Focus is big subject and can become extremely technical. There is a lot more you can learn. These points are just some fun ideas to help you learn about different aspects of focus in general. If you have any comments, other ideas or want me to write about another aspect of focus – leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

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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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Everybody Street… a new documentary about street photography

Video

Video

Documentary released for Film Festival.

Released at the “Hot Docs International Film Festival”, Everybody Street is about the street photography art of New York. Focusing on a range of street photogs it opens up the everyday reality of street photography.

The trailer for the documentary has been released and provides an insight to what may be in the documentary. It shows some stunning shots and some powerful insights. However, it also takes a rather voyeuristic and antagonistic view of street photography. While I personally don’t aspire to that approach there are others that do.

I believe that to act as an antagonist on the street is both dangerous and unnecessary. Personally I believe in respect, contact and participation in the street scene. But I do acknowledge that there are some people that take a different view.

I think it is worth seeing this documentary and I hope that one day it will be widely available. For now I leave you with the trailer. See what you think. The video is just over two minutes.

EVERYBODY STREET – New York City

Everybody Street Trailer from ALLDAYEVERYDAY on Vimeo.

Visit the website for the documentary at: http://everybodystreet.com/  External link - opens new tab/page

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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’.

A simple way to bring out your subject in environmental portraits

• Early morning worker • Bring out your subject in environmental portraits.

• Early morning worker •
Click image to view large
• Early morning worker • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page :: Environmental portraits
A great way to show off your subject is to find a way to make them brighter than the background. This projects them right out into the viewers eye. Environmental portraits are particularly good subjects for this technique.

Subjects should come first.

Every photograph should have a subject, but sometimes they get lost in the overall picture. If that happens you lose the viewers eye. Make the subject stand right out. In environmental portraits, one of the best ways to do that is to bring out your subject. Find a way of making them brighter than the background.

Environmental portraits

Most people shots, whether street photography, simple portraits, or even an event shot benefit from emphasis. There are lots of forms of emphasis. Here are a few examples…

  • High contrast
  • Big colour variations
  • Placement in the frame
  • Perspective…

Probably one of the most effective forms of emphasis in environmental portraits is subject highlighting. Environmental portraits are where a person is captured in the context of their environment. You can see them as they are in that environment. This helps you see into the person and their character.

If you can use highlighting your emphasis has two impacts. First, it provides an immediate draw for the eye. This is because the eye is drawn to the brightest spots in a picture. Secondly, the scene takes on more depth because of the impact. The very fact that the background is more subdued helps the eye to perceive the depth. The highlight creates a wider contrast between the darkest and lightest parts of the picture. In environmental portraits this has a profound effect on the eye.

How?

During the middle of the day the ambient light is very bright. You have to take care when highlighting to prevent blown out areas or over-exposure. There is one way to do it. Pick out your subject as the focus. Then turn down your exposure to slightly underexpose your background. Then use a manually set flash to illuminate the foreground subject. You will see the background as darker from the slight under-exposure. The subject will be properly exposed by the flash. Be careful not to have your flash too powerful. It will over expose the foreground and leave the background too dark. You might need to practice your technique.

In the photograph above I was lucky enough to capture the subject in bright clothes. The incidental light that did most of the work for me. A little brightening in my post-processing helped bring out the details. The emphasis of the light made the foreground object (the man) stand out. Often, what makes environmental portraits powerful is the understated background lighting.

In environmental portraits, bringing out the subject with highlighting is about taking advantage of natural lighting. Nearly every situation has local lighting variations. So if you take the time to look around your location and find light/shadow situations you are sure to find some place where the natural highlighting will give you an advantage. Most of the time it is down to becoming aware of the light and shade relationships.

Two lessons

What we should be doing when the light is right is highlighting the subject. It gives the picture impact and depth. When doing environmental portraits you will always have local light variations. Take advantage of them where you can. If you need to, use a little flash to emphasis the subject and make them stand out.

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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+.