Are you shooting low light action and not having much luck? Here are some great tips that I had to learn the hard way, while shooting dance and show choir events.
A Guest Post by Neil Ta.
There’s something to be said about having a nice collection of travel photos. They document not only your personal journey in other cities and countries, but also showcase the artistic side of your photographic abilities. Throughout my recent travels through Southeast Asia (and many smaller trips in years past), I’ve been able to capture some images that I’m quite proud of. The following tips have helped me take better and more unique photos when I am traveling or when I’m home:
You can’t take pictures if you leave your camera at the hotel! So the most fundamental thing is to bring your camera out with you. If a DSLR is too bulky, invest in a smaller point and shoot or micro 4/3 system. Your Canon 5d Mk II does you no good if it’s sitting in a bag at your hotel.
Not only do you need to bring your camera, you need to be ready to shoot. Many images happen spontaneously and disappear as fast as they appeared. If you’re too busy fidgeting around in manual modes and miss the shot – the moment is gone forever. Shoot in a mode that you’re comfortable with. If I am leisurely taking shots, I typically shoot on Aperture-Priority mode and adjust the exposure compensation as needed. You may be more comfortable in one of the creative modes, which is perfectly ok! If you’re shooting in RAW, it will enable you to do some post work to process the image if it isn’t perfect straight out of the camera. Remember, it is better to capture an image slightly under or overexposed than it is not to capture an image at all.
Are you ever in a situation where you’re at a popular tourist attraction and everybody is jockeying for position to take the same picture from the same location and angles? Well, it doesn’t take a lot of creativity to find different shooting perspectives – you can go higher, find other angles off to the side or below, or incorporate other photo enthusiasts into your shot. I find those types of images to be much more creative than ones taken from the most popular traditional angles and perspectives.
It is a global world out there! Flickr and other photo sharing sites (like DPS!) have made it easy to find interesting locations to shoot. You can search the most popular photos from a certain city or landmark and try to replicate or put your own stamp on some of your favourites. These are also fantastic forums to reach out to other photographers. I’ve had the great fortune of meeting and shooting with a number of well respected photographers from Detroit to Kuala Lumpur! They often know the best places to shoot, and if they have a specialized niche, you will be exposed to things that you’d be hard-pressed to pursue on your own.
Most of the personal connections I’ve made through photography began with a simple Flickr message.
Often, taking calculated risks pays off! It is a simple risk/reward calculation that we all have to consider. You really want to take that picture of an angry butcher at the market? Well, what’s the worst that could happen and is it worth the risk to you? I specialize in urban exploration (urbex) and am very meticulous when it comes to the risks I take associated with getting into an abandoned building or onto a rooftop/construction crane. This is especially true when I am traveling and dealing with different sets of rules. Generally, the greater the risk I take, the better the photos (and stories) are.
This is not something isolated to urban explorers either. Some of my most iconic images came after being on the front lines of the G20 Summit last year in Toronto when my fellow photography enthusiasts got more tear gas and rubber bullets than they bargained for. You need to ask yourself “how far will I go to get the shot?”
There’s nothing wrong with tourist sites! However, it does become increasingly difficult to get unique images from them. Luckily, it doesn’t take much effort to get off the beaten path. It could be as simple as getting out of your resort and visiting the local town, walking a few kilometres to another part of the beach, or doing a bit of research into some lesser known sites that you may find interesting. Getting off the beaten path even just a little can expose you to more unique and memorable experiences; oh yeah – and some cool images too!
On extended travels or vacations you may feel camera fatigue or a lack of creativity on certain days. For me, I sometimes feel as though picture taking is a chore I need to do! It should never be like that. Remember that you’re there primarily to experience another culture, its people and their city, photography should really be secondary. On days where I just don’t feel like shooting, I trade my Canon for my iPod and find creativity and inspiration in the lives that pass me by. One way I’ve been able to keep inspired is to do some volunteer photography work wherever I can. This could be something you run into coincidentally during your travels or prearranged with an NGO, charity, or other organization. The next time I reach for my camera following a good deed, I feel much more refreshed and energized.
This post is part of dPS's Self Portrait Challenge – learn more about what it is, how you can be involved and how you can get a free gift for participating here.
Let me start by saying that I am so thrilled by the number of entries for this challenge. I can tell that all of you are going to make it very tough for me this week in choosing my picks! I am also really happy to see that this was the first time many of you had taken a self-portrait, and equally thrilled that this encouraged you to participate in your first dPS challenge!
With that said, here are my picks for the Props Challenge, in no particular order:
Steve uses several props here – the mirror (for some very neat reflections), his camera, and a brush. There is also an arm holding the brush, which I suppose we can count as a prop, as well. All of the props add up to make this photo mysterious with a dash of surreal humor. Well done, Steve!
Lyssa takes props to a whole new level by enlisting the help of her bunny. I love how she is looking at the bunny, and the bunny is looking off in the distance, so all sorts of focal points are created. Your pets can be a really great addition to your self-portraits because they will help you relax and have fun. I hope the bunny got a tasty treat for this awesome photo!
This image really struck me because Ray not only chose to photograph himself with the trumpet, but while he was actually playing the trumpet. This is a great action shot, and really makes us feel “in the moment.” The depth of field is very effective – the way the trumpet is out of focus, but we can see his look of concentration. Congrats on your first challenge entry, Ray!
Again, all of you did such a great job! I was honored to see so much honesty from all of you who shared your objects with sentimental value, your musical instruments, and also your photography gear! There are still more entries coming in – feel free to keep sharing yours in the comments of this previous post.
Hopefully this challenge showed you that self-portraiture is really fun, and can teach you a lot about photography. If you didn't get the chance to add your photo to this challenge, then I encourage you to stick around for the next challenge, and I cannot wait to see what you come up with!
Today is the first day in dPS's Self Portrait Challenge – learn more about what it is, how you can be involved and how you can get a free gift here.
Earlier this week, when I learned I would be issuing some self-portrait challenges for dPS, I was absolutely thrilled! Self-portraiture has been a very important aspect of my career as a photographer thus far, as well as many of my photography buddies – both professional and hobbyist.
When I first started learning about photography, self-portraiture never occurred to me as a way to hone my portrait skills. I found so many amazing and unique self-portrait photographers online, mainly through Flickr, and found the idea of self-portraits to be, let’s face it, slightly intimidating, and I did not really understand why anyone would want to photograph themselves on a regular basis. As I followed their work, however, I soon realized that their photography, not only their self-portraits, seemed to be constantly growing in new directions, which inspired me to try a couple of self-portraits of my own.
Self-portraiture is a fun and rewarding way to practice lighting, different camera settings, and portraiture in general. There was a time when I was petrified of photographing another person, but through my experiences with self-portraits, I acquired skills and a new level of confidence that has been very beneficial to my portrait work, which has become the basis for my photography business.
One of the really great things about self-portraits is that you do not need an expensive camera or an intricate lighting setup. Sure, having lots of gear on hand can make your self-portraits fun and challenging, but really all you need is a camera with a timer, and the possibilities are endless. This is a chance for you to spend some time alone, learning about your camera, how to adapt to different lighting situations and various locations, without the pressure of finding a model.
Photographers have been using props since the invention of the camera! They are a great thing to have on hand because not only do they add interest to the photo, but they can also be great indicators of time and place, as well as giving the subject something to focus on other than the camera. Just like a portrait of someone else, a self-portrait should be a reflection of you, the individual, and oftentimes a prop can help you feel more at ease in front of the camera.
While this self-portrait challenge is geared more towards the beginner self-portrait photographer, I encourage all of you, even the more experienced photographers, to give this challenge a try.
Your prop need not be anything elaborate – when you are first starting out with self-portraits, I would suggest using a prop that has meaning to you, whether it has sentimental value, or is just something that you really like. This could be a family heirloom or a photograph. If you have a hobby, such as painting, for example, your paintbrushes would make a great prop. Or, maybe you just really love flowers, so even flowers could be a great prop. The key is to find something that is special to you, because if you are working with a prop that has meaning to you, personally, you are much more likely to relax in front of the camera and have fun, as opposed to being stiff and not knowing what to do with yourself.
Above the image above: In my free time, I collect antiques, and lately I have been using a vintage suitcase as a prop. Not only do I like the way it looks, but I wonder where it has traveled in the world and who has carried it, which has inspired a lot of ideas for my self-portraits in the past few months. Any object that spurs an emotional reaction or sets your imagination in motion will work great as a prop.
Experiment with different lighting and focus. If you are new to self-portraits and possibly a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of being in front of the camera, try making the prop the main focal point, with yourself being secondary.
Once you have chosen a prop to use, the fun begins! Just do your best to concentrate on what the prop means to you, whether it is a simple concept, or something more abstract, and let those thoughts guide you in setting up your self-portrait.
Once you've taken your ‘PROPS' Self Portrait Photos – choose your best one and upload it to your favourite photo sharing site and either share a link to it in comments below. Alternatively – embed the image in comment below using the our embed tool.
If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites with Tagging tag them as #DPSPROPS to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you're doing so that they can share in the fun.
Today we're launching a fun week long challenge here on dPS and we'd LOVE for you to join in.
The theme is ‘Self Portaits' and over the next week we'll issue you with 3 Themes to go away and photograph and to share the results with us.
Later today, Wednesday and on Friday Anna will issue the challenge and name the theme and then on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday she'll choose an image that is her favorite and share some reflections on the shots submitted.
Getting involved is completely free – in fact if you do sign up to be involved we've got a little gift for you – a free report to help you take better social media avatar/self portraits.
The report is titled: ‘Tips for taking a Self Portrait for Social Networking Sites' and it'll not only help you take an eye catching image for your Twitter or Facebook avatar – but it'll help you get the most out of this week long challenge.
To get notifications of the 3 challenges and to get a download link for the free report – simply add your first name and an email address to the form below (note: if you'r using ad blocking plugins on your browser you may not see the form and could need to disable the plugin and refresh the page).
Once you sign up you'll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription to the challenge – just click the link in that email and you'll be set to go.
Stay tuned for Anna to name the first theme in the challenge later today!
UPDATE: we've had a number of readers say that they're not getting the confirmation email. Some are finding it in their spam filters while others say that its just taking a few hours to arrive. So please do check spam filters but if it doesn't arrive feel free to contact us via our contact form and we can get you the download another way.
Capturing movement in images is something that many photographers only think to do when they are photographing sports or other fast moving subjects.
While there is an obvious opportunity in sports photography to emphasize the movement of participants – almost every type of photography can benefit from the emphasis of movement in a shot – even when the movement is very small, slow and/or subtle.
Last week I featured 15 images that capture movement with creative blur – today I want to take a few moments to suggest some tips on how to do it.
1. Slow Down Your Shutter Speed
The reason for movement blur is simply that the amount of time that the shutter of a camera is open is long enough to allow your camera's image sensor to 'see' the movement of your subject.
So the number one tip in capturing movement in an image is to select a longer shutter speed.
If your shutter speed is fast (eg 1/4000th of a second) it's not going to see much movement (unless the the subject is moving mighty fast) while if you select a longer shutter speed (eg 5 seconds) you don't need your subject to move very much at all before you start to see blur.
How long should your shutter speed be? – Of course the speed of your subject comes into play. A moving snail and a moving racing car will give you very different results at the same shutter speed.
The other factor that comes into play in determining shutter speed is how much light there is in the scene you are photographing. A longer shutter speed lets more light into your camera and runs the risk of blowing out or overexposing your shot. We'll cover some ways to let less light in and give you the option to have longer shutter speeds below.
So how long should your shutter speed be to get movement blur in your shot? There is no ‘answer' for this question as it will obviously vary a lot depending upon the speed of your subject, how much blur you want to capture and how well lit the subject is. The key is to experiment (something that a digital camera is ideal for as you can take as many shots as you like without it costing you anything).
2. Secure Your Camera
There are two ways to get a feeling of movement in your images – have your subject move or have your camera move (or both). In the majority of cases that we featured in last week's post it was the subject that was moving.
In this type of shot you need to do everything that you can to keep your camera perfectly still or in addition to the blur from the subject you'll find that the whole frame looks like it's moving as a result of using a longer shutter speed. Whether it be by using a tripod or have your camera sitting on some other still object (consider a shutter release mechanism or using the self timer) you'll want to ensure that camera is perfectly still.
3. Shutter Priority Mode
One of the most important settings in photographing an image which emphasizes movement is the shutter speed (as outlined above). Even small changes in shutter speed will have a big impact upon your shot – so you want to shoot in a mode that gives you full control over it.
This means either switching your camera into full Manual Mode or Shutter Priority Mode. Shutter Priority Mode is a mode that allows you to set your shutter speed and where the camera chooses other settings (like Aperture) to ensure the shot is well exposed. It's a very handy mode to play with as it ensures you get the movement effect that you're after but also generally well exposed shots.
The other option is to go with Manual mode if you feel more confident in getting the aperture/shutterspeed balance right.
I mentioned above that one of the effects of using longer exposure times (slow shutter speeds) is that more light will get into your camera. Unless you compensate for this in some way this will lead to over exposed shots.
Below I'll suggest three main methods for making this compensation (note – a forth method is simply to wait for the light to change (ie for it to get darker). This is why many shots that incorporate blur are taken at night or at dawn/dusk):
1. Small Apertures
So how do you cut down the amount of light that gets into your camera to help compensate for a longer shutter speed? How about changing the size of the hole that the light comes in through. This is called adjusting your camera's Aperture.
If you shoot in shutter priority mode the camera will do this automatically for you – but if you're in manual mode you'll need to decrease your Aperture in a proportional amount to the amount that you lengthen the shutter speed.
Luckily this isn't as hard as you might think because shutter speed and aperture settings are organized in 'stops'. As you decrease shutter speed by a 'stop' you double the amount of time the shutter is open (eg – from 1/250 to 1/125). The same is true with Aperture settings – as you decrease the Aperture by one stop you decrease the size of the shutter opening by 50%. This is great because an adjustment of 1 stop in one means that you just need to adjust the other by 1 stop too and you'll still get good exposure.
2. Decrease Your ISO
Another way to compensate for the extra light that a longer shutter speed lets into your camera is to adjust the ISO setting of your camera. ISO impacts the sensitivity of your digital camera's image sensor. A higher number will make it more sensitive to light and a lower number will make the sensor less sensitive. Choose a low number and you'll find yourself able to choose longer shutter speeds.
3. Try a Neutral Density Filter
These filters cut down the light passing through your lens and into your camera which in turn allows you to use a slower shutter speed.
It is sort of like putting sunglasses on your camera (in fact some people actually have been known to use sunglasses when they didn't have an ND filter handy).
For instance, if you're shooting a landscape in a brightly lit situation but want a shutter speed of a second or more you could well end up with a very over exposed image. A ND filter can be very helpful in slowing the shutter speed down enough to still get a well balanced shot.
It is the use of ND filters that enabled some of the shots in our previous post to get a lot of motion blur while being taken in daylight.
Another type of filter that can have a similar impact is a polarizing filter. Keep in mind however that polarizers not only cut out some light but they can impact the look of your image in other ways (ie cut out reflection and even change the color of a sky – this may or may not be the look you're after).
Two More Technique to Try – one more technique to experiment if you're wanting to capture images with motion blur is to experiment with Slow Sync Flash. This combines longer shutter speeds with the use of a flash so that elements in the shot are frozen still while others are blurry. Read more about Slow Sync Flash. Another technique worth trying out is panning – moving your camera along with a moving subject so that they come out nicely in focus but the background blurs.
In the last few days I had the privilege to meet Toni Powell – one of the creators of the 365 Grateful project.
I hope to feature more on the project in the coming months but wanted to share the above short video to introduce the concept because its something that is changing lives around the world – through photography – and is something that I know for a fact many dPS readers and members would get a lot out of both in terms of their photography but also (and more importantly) in terms of life.
Chasing the Light – Improving Your Photography With Available Light by Ibarionex Perello. Published by New Riders
Chasing the Light is not just a ‘how-to’ book, it’s an inspiration!
I became familiar with the author, Ibarionex Perello, while listening to hours of his podcast The Candid Frame. Thanks to him, I discovered dozens of amazing photographers, some famous and some unknown. Ibarionex is also a published photographer, as well as an instructor at BetterPhotos.com and at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Through this book, the author takes you on an adventure of discovery. His approach is quite personal in the way that each aspect of photography covered is illustrated with an image and the story behind it. His ability to convey the unmistakable feeling photographers get when they know they captured something truly special transpires throughout the book.
Right away, after reading the first chapter titled Beginning to See, you will undoubtedly look twice at the quality of light the next time you step outside with your camera. The author describes how the light directs him where to look; and his passion for his craft is evident in the first few words.
In the following chapters the author puts on his photography instructor hat and explains the elements of exposure, the importance of the color of light, and white balance. He will then take you step by step through the five visual draws as you learn how to “build visually”. His love for portraiture and street photography is also an important element in the book. The author gives easy-to-apply tips and techniques on lighting, from direct sunlight to open shade, from window light to the use of reflectors, flash and diffusers. His point is to get the “gear out of the way”, to learn your camera functions in order to use them efficiently to capture the feeling of the moment.
Chapter 7, my favorite, is titled Light and the Small Details. With examples of close-up photography and minimalist images, the author explains how he composes his shots according to his emotional response to the scene or object.
As Ibarionex Perello puts it so well: “The true value of photography becomes the appreciation and satisfaction of being in the moment.” No matter what level you are, or whether you shoot landscape, close-ups or street photography, you will learn something in this book. Reading Chasing the Light will inspire you to get out and make pictures in your own neighborhood. I can assure you that you will see the most mundane things around you in a whole new light!
Chasing the Light – Improving Your Photography With Available Light is listed for US $44.99 and is available at a discounted price on Amazon. If you want to know more about the author, I would highly recommend listening to The Candid Frame podcast!
I'm going to let you in on a secret but first I need you to put your camera away. You see, cameras are becoming smarter and smarter every year as the ability to pack more and more information and programming into their circuits becomes available thanks to the march of progress. I don't want your camera catching whiff of this conversation.
That's because the honest truth is your camera wants you to be average. More precisely, your camera wants your pictures to be average. Let me explain with a bit of backstory.
For the SLR crowd, cameras haven't always had light meters in them. They started out as simple pinholes, graduating up to more and more complex systems, but always relying on the human operating them to figure out the right amount of light to let in via a shutter and aperture (as well as the light sensitivity of chosen film). But then light meters made the move. They were tired of being handheld units, only reporting back the ambient light striking them at one particular spot on the planet, letting a human figure out the rest. They wanted to see what we saw.
And so light meters made their way into SLR cameras and their popularity grew. These meters were simple at first; they would only be able to sample from one spot in the scene and tell us what they measured with the simplest of needles, partially out of view. These meters were different in another way too; unlike the hand held units, they measure the light reflected off of an item.
One metering spot grew to two and four and now we have systems with over 60 different light metering nodes. Along the path the light metering aspect also offered to take over setting our shutter speed and aperture for us. I mean, it's such hard work and the electronic brain of the camera is now so fast, why not?
Why not? Because your camera doesn't know what you want. That's why not.
Your camera's computer brain (today) measures light coming into the body and tries to find an average. It doesn't know what you are exposing for. Is it that bright sun in the corner? Or the jet black Porsche in the foreground? Or the cute white poodle in the driver's seat? It also might have trouble focusing because it isn't quite sure what you want (we can go over that another time, but it hits to the same problem for your camera).
This leads your camera to try to create an average picture. By itself, this isn't such a bad thing. Your camera's sensor can only pick up a certain range of light (around 7-9 stops currently, but growing every year)and it has to decide how to fit a scene beyond its range into that frame. Your eye picks up and your brain can handle about 15 stops of light at a given moment. In this case, your camera is already doomed not to show what you see (which is where HDR comes in to fill the dynamic range gap).
All this is not to say your camera hates you, it doesn't. It just wants to do the best it can and it thinks you want middle of the road average. It will pick highlight and shadow that come across its sensor and attempt to find middle ground. This is often desirable, but not always. Maybe the foreground is more important to you and should be exposed more brightly. Maybe the sunset shouldn't be so harsh in the sky and you don't care if the foreground is dark.
Maybe your camera can't read your mind. I hope it can't. So what do you do with a camera that wants to bring about an average shot every time?
Find and use the exposure compensation, or bias, on your camera. Here's a previous post on DPS describing how this feature works. It is a great tool for popping your camera out of the average rut. It typically works in Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes.
If your camera has a histogram display, it might be a good time to employ it. You will see average pictures being a nice even mountain. If that isn't getting you the oomph you want, try pushing things one direction or the other. The histogram will tell you how far you can push (dark or light) before you start losing data. Take a look at the histogram at right for the shot up above (taken from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom). This shot was taken as prescribed using the Program mode, evaluative metering and no exposure compensation. There are about 1-2 more stops of room left on the left side of this histogram to bring the exposure to life.
That's right, lose some data. Nothing says you have to have a perfectly exposed image time and time again. Move the limit and focus on what you want. Besides “perfectly exposed image” is an entirely subject phrase and there is no set rule that says you are restricted from having part or most of your image over or underexposed if that is what you like. Experiment.
I don't point people to post processing as a means to fix their woes very often. I'm a firm believer in getting the shot right the first time. But reality is that a computer is helpful when used well. In this case, with the photo above, the camera rendered a fairly flat image. 45 seconds spent in Lightroom gave the photo some life. While it will not win me a prize at the local fair, I wanted to use it to show how much brighter that gray day looked to me, compared to the camera. I also wanted to show that, yes, that's a drenching downpour in the distance and, yes, that little speck under the downpour is Seattle.
It's time to stand up for what you want and move away from the matrix or evaluative metering your camera has been using. Try out spot or center-weighted metering and point them towards what's most important to you in the scene. Also get accustomed to using your camera's auto exposure lock (AEL) feature to hold the metering while recomposing a shot.
This is something you should have done from the start. I know, 'should' is a strong word in this case. I'm not trying to push doctrine down your throat. I do believe that to be successful (measured to your own person liking) at photography, it is key to be able to see and read light. Nothing says you have to use the metering suggestion of your camera. Every DSLR still has a manual mode where you decide the three key elements: Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. Your camera might flash things at you, telling it thinks you're making mistakes, but take the shot anyway and learn from your mistakes.
You don't deserve to have average shots. But don't blame your camera either. Learn how your camera is ‘thinking' and make adjustments accordingly to bring about the image you want. Average works at times, but if you want to get more life into your pictures, stop listening to your camera's light meter all the time.