When one thinks of lighting and photography, the idea of flashes and strobes probably come racing to mind right away. This maybe true for a vast number of photographers, however there are plenty of other ways to get your lighting on, and they will not even break the bank. Some solutions may even surprise you!
Let’s get the easiest lighting source out of the way right now. That solution is natural lighting, or the sun. The sun never runs out of batteries, won’t blow up in the middle of a shoot, and is not something you will need to worry about getting stolen while you are out doing your work. On the downside, you cannot control the sun, and it may not cooperate with you. There is also having to work around those peak times of shooting in the morning and in the evening. Even with its uncontrollable nature, the burning star in the sky is easily the most reliable light you can use.
So what do you do when the sun is blanketed in clouds. Have no fear, as cloudy weather can provide a big benefit to your lighting needs as well. Overcast skies often reduce harsh shadows. This means if you are shooting flowers, bugs, and whatnot, the need for fill light may not be necessary. Clouds also provide a more interesting sky. Learn to work with Mother Nature as she provides some of the best options around! Read More→
I love macro photography. In a world that continues to get larger, it is wonderful to look at the same surroundings on a much smaller scale. However, viewing the world through tiny eyes does bring on its own challenges outside correct exposure, white balance, and battery life. So, if you are like me and want to see this tiny world, read on!
The first thing you will want to invest in is a good tripod. I have boasted the benefits of tripods before, but a key feature you want to make sure your tripod can handle is getting close to the ground. The reason this is the first item you want to buy is that any movement from yourself, or the subject, is ultimately going to lead to noticeable blur in your photo. It will help if you can find one that allows you to mount your camera on the bottom, the legs fold out wide, and yet provides you a sturdy base for all your work. A good tripod of any kind is well worth the investment!
The next item you want to start considering is a macro lens. Every camera brand comes with a nice range of options here, however this is where you need to sit down and do some thinking. The most important item to consider is what you expect to shoot up close. There is a big difference when it comes to shooting a deadly spider or photographing spare pocket change. Knowing this will help you determine if you can get by with something like a 60mm macro lens, or if you will need a 200mm to put as much distance between you and the eight legged death dealer. Both lenses maybe great, but understanding the nuances of what you want to capture is going to help you budget planning.
This is going to be an unusual post for me, as instead of breaking down some type of technique or photography secret sauce (there is none; incidentally), I am going to tell you to do something completely different. In a world that is connected by glass lines that transmit data at the speed of light and where news happens on a minute by minute basis, I will tell you to stop. When is the last time you put the camera down, and enjoyed the scene outside of shutter speed, correct white balance, and aperture settings?
Hence, my article will be brief this week, spurred on by a recent visit with my in-laws. I see my in-laws a fair amount as they live a little over an hour away. What was different on this visit was the knowledge that they are in the process of moving hundreds of miles away, separating my wife and I from them by two full days of driving. This means that what little time we can easily spend with them now becomes ever more important.
I had packed a bag full of gear and toys with every intention of shooting various spring photos during our visit. The tulips are in full bloom, the Magnolia tree had gorgeous flowers at the ready, and the weather was spot on for some great sunset shots. Yet, I never unloaded my gear or snapped a photo. No, I spent the day enjoying the conversations about things I cannot recall now. I stopped thinking at four frames a second and let one long exposure rule my mind. I had stopped to enjoy the moment. Read More→
Hitting a photographic slump can happen to even the best photographer. You shoot the same subject matter, process with the same techniques, fill client requests, and work day in and day out doing the same thing. This maybe great for the bank account, but sometimes that can destroy your creativity. Hitting the creative wall can be detrimental to your mood. However, there are some solutions to help break free from this black hole.
One of the easiest things you can do is try something new. This can be anything from shooting different subject matter, processing a photo with a new technique, or even just changing up your normal shooting times. Simply altering one aspect of your photography can not only inspire you, but it may also open your eyes to a completely new photographic world you may not have considered before. Change can be a very good thing!
While we are on the subject of change, why not change up your style for a week. In fact, why not combine several styles into one photo. There are no rules that say you cannot shoot a black and white HDR macro image of a bottle cap. Maybe you want to shoot some long exposure street photography. Again, you are dabbling in something new and foreign, yet that can lead to new tools and personal styles you draw upon at a later time.
Another thing you can do is start some sort of photography project for yourself. Maybe you want to shoot a self-portrait every day for a year, or maybe you roam around your state taking photos of churches. The key to these projects is to make them something that interests you on some deep personal level. When you start to tire of the everyday normalcy and find you just don’t have it in you to press that shutter button, look at your project list and work on some of your personal projects. Read More→
A couple of weekends ago I was able to take a day away from all my moving and packing shenanigans to hit an abandoned hospital for a little bit of photography fun. Urban Exploration photography is something I rather enjoy to look at, so this opportunity to go on my very first UrbEx trip was rather exciting, and nerve racking at the same time. While I had a ball, I learned a few very important lessons from this trip.
Lesson number one was to pack plenty of lighting options. When we (there was a group of 12 of us) started roaming the hospital, we started in the basement. If you had no lights, this would be an extremely dark area to play in. I had a headlamp and four flashlights to use as I saw fit. The issue I had was that all but one of these lighting options was LED lights. When you have an opportunity to get creative with lighting like this, being limited to only the cold blues that LEDs emit was a tad frustrating. The next time I go, I plan to either get various colored gels for my flashlights, or bring a few different lighting options. Read More→
I am a sucker when it comes to darn near anything retro. Old cars, older video games, bad sci-fi movies from the 80s, and vintage photos are all on that list of things that will stop me in my tracks too take a moment and enjoy. For this article, I’m focusing on my love of old photos. There is something about a grainy, scratched, vignetted, and overall imperfect photo from the past that really floats my boat. Perhaps this is why so many of my photos are trying to replicate aspects of this retro look.
The camera that tends to be the culprit of growing retro style photo popularity is the Holga film cameras. These are cheap plastic cameras that take some great photos with vignettes, light leaks, multiple exposures, and so much more. The issue is that you always had to buy these “toy” camera bodies and film to enjoy the Holga effect. That is until recently!
Holga has released two lenses that are specifically made to fit the Nikon and Cannon DSLRs. The HL-N is, obviously, for the Nikon while the HL-C fits a Cannon. These lenses promise great Holga effects with the convenience of your digital camera. When I heard about this, I immediately jumped all over the opportunity to snag the HL-N and take it for a spin.
When I received the box with my HL-N, the first thing I noticed was how extremely light the box was. I have ordered small Lego sets that weighed more than this. The reason for this lightness is due to the Holga lens being made out of plastic with the exception of the small front piece of glass. There are a few holes drilled out on the back to send the image to the sensor, but that is it. Even the part that mounts to your cameral is plastic. This truly brings the toy camera feel right to the DSLR world. Read More→
The rule of thirds may come across as a simple rule, yet it can make a very powerful image. While a lot of photography rules have changed as technology improved, this rule has managed to stand the test of time. Let’s look at this rule and how you can use it to your advantage.
Before I dive into a few of my photos and how I utilize the rule of thirds, a small description is necessary. The idea behind this concept is that you break your scene into threes. An example would be shooting a beach scene. You place the sand in the foreground at the bottom third of the image, the water in the middle third, and the sky in the top third. This rule also applies to the vertical orientation in which you split the scene into thirds in a left to right fashion. Now, let’s look at a few images that utilize this rule.
There are a few ways I framed this image with the rule of thirds in mind. First, I kept the bridge and the vanishing point of the railroad tracks in the lower third of the frame. I also framed the shot so each side of the bridge appears in the lower left and right quadrants of the shot.
Next was framing the trees. While the trees do sneak into the middle portion of the image, I kept the bulk of them on the left and right thirds of the shot. I also tried to keep the trees contained to the bottom two thirds of the frame to allow for some negative space on the top of the shot. This decision ultimately creates a “T” for the fog to fill in, and directs the eyes into the image.
Shooting in the dark not only brings its own set of unique challenges for the photographer, but the final results of these challenges can be extremely pleasing to look at. Slower shutter speeds due to low light bring on great light-trails, light painting, creative subject lighting techniques, and so much more.
However, having a sturdy tripod is key to many of these techniques. So what do you do if you do not have a tripod on hand to shoot in a low light situation? A few ways to rectify this situation include:
1. Crank up the ISO on your camera. Turning up the ISO on your camera is the first thing you can do to compensate for the lack of light. Bumping up the ISO setting allows your camera sensor to take in more of the available light, thus allowing for faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures. This makes it easier to reduce, if not eliminate, all signs of camera shake in your end photos.
Turning this setting up does come with a bit of caution. The higher you set your ISO, the more noise you will end up with. Cameras continue to get better at reducing the amount of noise at high ISO settings, but it is not perfect. This is particularly noticeable if you are producing an HDR image as the graininess really comes out when you stack multiple exposures. Do some test shots to see what acceptable ISO levels you have on your camera.
If you want that extra bit of light, try opening up your aperture a bit. This may give you a shallower depth of field, but it can sometimes mean the difference in upping your ISO setting just one more notch. This is a preference that you can only determine through testing various combinations and evaluating the end results. Read More→
Digital photography provides many choices when it comes to enhancing your unique vision. Everything from cameras, lenses, and post production software play a unique role in producing wonderful images. There is another piece to this puzzle that you need to consider as well. The question of RAW vs. JPG file formats is one that has no right or wrong answer, only what works best for you. Let’s take a look at these two formats and why you may want to use one over the other.
RAW is the native form in which your camera writes files to the memory card. This means Nikon’s RAW files differ from Cannon, Sony, Pentax, and so on. Each camera even puts its own unique file extensions on each photo. However, the differences in RAW files are more complicated than just file extensions and camera brands.
RAW files contain a large amount of information about a photo. This info ranges from the make of camera all the way down to if you fired a flash or not. That information is stored differently in every manufacturer’s RAW file. For example, Nikon may write the info in this order: camera type, iso, shutter, aperture, lens, date, time, and white balance. However, Pentax may write their info as: lens, date, camera, iso, shutter, time, white balance, and aperture. There is no standard for writing info into RAW files.
All of this info brings on a disadvantage when it comes to the ability for the file to be opened by photo viewing/manipulation software. You may have noticed how patches are released for software like Photoshop, Aperture, or Lightroom when new cameras are released. These patches are necessary to read the native files from these new cameras. As you might imagine, this complexity in RAW files can make it a bit difficult to move photos from one piece of software to another at times. This difficulty is often resolved by converting the original photo into another file format such as a DNG, JPG, or TIFF. Read More→
Surfing through various internet forums recently, I have noticed an argument that has resurfaced. This argument revolves around what people consider a manipulated image. We have all seen bad manipulations done for magazine covers, news articles, and even the odd internet article. Yet, this debate goes even further than simply removing a stray hair or masking out an unwanted building.
If we look at two of the extreme ends of this debate, there is the camp that wants photos right out of the camera with no post processing what so ever. The other end are those folks who don’t mind using tools like Photoshop, Nik Software, Photomatix, or even Picasa to modify their images in some form or another. Regardless where you fall in this spectrum, I would argue that we are all manipulating the image the moment we click the shutter button.
Why do I believe this? The simple fact is that no camera, no matter how technologically advanced, have the capabilities to capture what our eyes see and our minds interpret. We may try our hardest to reproduce what we are seeing with out eyes, but the fact is we are merely creating an interpretation. So where does the manipulation come in with the shutter click? It comes from the settings, extra lighting, and even filters we use to manipulate what the camera catches.
Here’s a simple example. You are shooting a beautiful tree at sunset. Your eyes are quickly adjusting between the lights and darks of the scene. You must carefully choose how you will expose this scene for your camera. So you dial in a specific shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO level. You may add a graduated neutral density filter to help keep the sky in correct exposure with the ground. There might even be a polarizer filter added to help bring out more colors. All of these items may help you get the desired end result of a gorgeous image, but it is all stuff you are using to manipulate what appears on the memory card/film. Even specific films can be used to modify how a scene turns out. Read More→