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How to get the “Money Shot” in Pet Photography

Sat, 2012-07-14 06:50

A Guest Post by Nicole Begley from Hair of the Dog

If there is one shot in pet photography that just about every owner is guaranteed to fall in love with and buy, it is the head tilt.   There is nothing quite like those shots with the dog looking directly in the camera, head to the side, and their ears pricked.  Capturing them can be quite elusive, but I have a few tips and tricks that may make it a little bit easier.

1. Practice your best whining puppy

This is a tough one, but if you can pull it off it’s certainly the easiest!  I do not have the innate talent of creating noises that intrigue the canine set.  My attempts usually end up with both the dog and the owner staring at me with amazement, and not in a good way!  However, I have witnessed some incredible puppy whine mimicry which works wonders!  If you can pull it off it’s great because you still have your hands free and you can utilize it at any time.

2. Engage the owner in some puppy talk

Some dogs respond to certain voices or words with the head tilt.  Have the dog’s human stand behind you and ask “Do you want to go for a ride?”, or whatever phrase it is that elicits the head tilt or ear prick from the pet.

3. Embrace technology

Do you have a smart phone?  It can be an arsenal of crazy animal noises that are sure to get the attention of just about every dog.  Simply search for an animal noises app and get your camera ready to capture that head tilt!  If you are planning on using the animal noises app, it’s important to ask the owner if they think the dog will be ok with it.  The last thing you want to do is play a wolf howl and have the dog go ballistic because you didn’t realize they are either fearful of or aggressive towards other dogs.  

Another great thing about the animal noise app is that you have many different sounds at your disposal.  I recently photographed a dog that didn’t flinch when I played the wolf, but was quite interested in the turkey and owl calls.   I promise the effort that goes into creating these shots will pay off.  Owners can’t resist that face!  

Nicole Begley is an animal trainer turned dog photographer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, focusing on creating custom home décor and fine-art albums with fun and modern images.  Nicole also created Hair of the Dog, a blog dedicated to marketing and business tips for veteran and aspiring pet photographers.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to get the “Money Shot” in Pet Photography

Get High: Weekly Photography Challenge

Fri, 2012-07-13 07:01

This week your photographic challenge is to ‘Get High’.

No – we don’t mean you need to take any mind altering subjects…. we’re encouraging you to look for opportunities to get up above the subjects you’re photographing and shoot from that vantage point – as we wrote about in our post on getting a new perspective by getting high with your camera.

You’re welcome to do this with any kind of subject matter – portraiture, landscape, streetscapes, wildlife, sporting…. anything you want to try it with.

Once you’ve taken and selected the ‘Getting High’ image that you’d like to share – upload it to your favourite photo sharing site or blog and either share a link to it or – embed them in the comments using the our new tool to do so.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites with Tagging tag them as #DPSHIGH 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.

Also – don’t forget to check out some of the great shots posted in last weeks challenge – Details challenge where there were some great shots submitted.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Get High: Weekly Photography Challenge

Neutral Density Filter Fireworks Photography

Fri, 2012-07-13 07:00

A Guest Post from Tom Bricker from

As most landscape photographers probably know, neutral density filters reduce the intensity of light reaching the lens, to allow longer shutter speeds or larger apertures. Think of them as sunglasses for your lens. While these filters have long been used for landscape photography, they aren’t typically considered for fireworks photography. At least not yet.

Neutral density filters allow longer shutter speeds, assuming the same aperture and ISO level. For example, if you were photographing a fireworks show and found that a shutter speed of 10 seconds at f/16 and ISO 200 achieved a proper exposure, a shutter speed of 80 seconds at f/16 and ISO 200 would be the proper exposure with a ND 0.9 filter. That’s a lot of pyro in a single shot, and the frame resulting from such a long exposure can be very impressive!

Given that exposure lengths will easily eclipse 30 seconds, you need to mount your camera on a tripod and utilize a remote shutter release when using a neutral density filter. Shutter speeds will typically be so long that using bulb mode is a necessity. This will require you to keep track of your exposure time mentally, while hoping that those pretty explosions don’t distract you. You may want to carry a stop-watch or use a timer on your phone (there’s an app for that!) to track your exposure time.

With exposures that long, there are obviously difficulties in using neutral density filters for photographing fireworks. You will typically take fewer photos per show. This means you have less of a margin for error, since, if you mess up one shot, that might be 20% of your photos for a particular show, whereas if you’re not using an neutral filter, one messed up shot is probably only going to constitute around 5% of your photos from the show. In addition to this, you’re more likely to make mistakes, as the combination of watching the fireworks and determining when to open and close your shutter based upon your mental count of the number and intensity of bursts can lead to over or under-exposed shots.

Additionally, the number of bursts in each frame can make the shot look chaotic and less symmetrical than capturing one or a few bursts per frame. It can be visually jarring, and because of this, it’s something that you might want to use sparingly. Although I write that now, you’ll find that once you start using a neutral density filter for fireworks, it’s hard to put it down. You might find yourself addicted to either the stunning visual appearance of the explosive chaotic-ness of the photos, and you might also find yourself wanting to embrace the challenge of this type of fireworks photography. When you do poorly, it’s really frustrating, but when you do well, it’s incredibly rewarding!

Technique-wise, there are few better options than practicing. Not only is every fireworks show different in intensity, but different scenes within each show are different in intensity. Once you have an idea of the settings you might want to use with your neutral density filter, you may want to make a chart that quickly “converts” normal exposure settings for your neutral density. These charts won’t be universally applicable due to show intensity differences, but for those among us suffering math-phobia, these charts can be a lifesaver and provide a great jumping-off point.

As far as which filter to get, the ND 0.9 filter has become the filter of choice for fireworks photographers due to its price and because it typically achieves optimal exposure lengths, but another option to consider is the ND 1.8 filter. Far fewer brands make ND 1.8 filters, and those brands that do are usually more expensive, but this filter is much more versatile for non-fireworks uses and offers a couple of advantages over the ND 0.9 filter.

First, since it stops 6 stops of light as opposed to the 3 stops of light that the ND 0.9 stops, you will be able to maintain the same long exposures as with the ND 0.9 filter while lowering your aperture even further. A lower aperture, in the f/5.6-f/8 range minimizes diffraction and maximizes sharpness, but also prevents the burst trails from becoming narrower, which occurs with smaller apertures.

In the end, these strategies can only prepare you so much. Your first time photographing fireworks with an ND filter might be discouraging. You may err on the side of caution and go for shorter exposures, questioning how on earth this thin piece of glass could allow you to take such long exposures. You might end up with mostly black frames or frames that are still over-exposed. As you photograph more with the neutral density filter, you’ll become more comfortable using it, and you will gain a pretty good feel for appropriate settings and exposure duration.

With this information and these settings in mind, you should be prepared to photograph fireworks with a neutral density filter! Remember, this type of fireworks photography is more advanced, and does have a steep learning curve. Do not get discouraged if your first few tries at shooting fireworks with a neutral density filter are unsuccessful. As with any type of photography, you will become better with more practice, and will over time find yourself quite comfortable photographing fireworks with a neutral density filter.

Tom Bricker is a travel photographer specializing in photography at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. He runs the site, where you can find more of his photography, and his tips for great Disney vacations. He also has co-authored a book on photographing fireworks, which you can find at

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Neutral Density Filter Fireworks Photography

Extension Tubes: Close Up Photography Lesson #2

Thu, 2012-07-12 11:56

This is the second in a series of four lessons on close-up and macro photography by Andrew S Gibson, author of Up Close: A Guide to Macro & Close Up Photography.

In the last lesson, I wrote about close-up lenses and how they can help you get closer to the subject for close-up photography. This time, I’m going to write about another accessory you can buy, extension tubes.

Extension is the term used to describe the distance that the front element of your lens can be moved forwards. The further forward the element, the closer your lens can focus to your subject.

Extension tubes work by increasing the extension of your lenses. An extension tube is a hollow, light-tight tube that fits between your lens and your camera mount. It moves your lens further from the camera, and the front element closer to the subject. The closer you can focus, the more magnification you get.

The above photo shows a 50mm lens fitted with a 25mm extension tube.

Extension tubes, generally speaking (it depends on the lens) get you closer to your subject than close-up lenses, in some closes nearly as close as you would be able to get with a macro lens.

There are two types of extension tube that you can buy:

The first, and the least expensive, don’t maintain the electrical connection between your lens and camera body.

The camera can still handle exposure – just set it to aperture priority or program mode.

The biggest drawback of these extension tubes is aperture control. If your lenses don’t have manual aperture rings (ie the aperture setting is controlled by the camera) then the lens aperture will remain locked open at the widest aperture. While wide apertures can be used creatively, the narrow depth-of-field you get with close-up photography means that you usually need to stop down to get a large enough zone of sharpness to suit the image.

However, if you have a lens with a manual aperture ring, this may not matter too much, as you can stop down manually (although the viewfinder will get darker as you do so, making it hard to see at small apertures).

The second type of extension tube is one with electrical contacts that maintains communication between the lens and camera body. The camera controls the aperture settings, and you can use any automatic exposure mode and also autofocus (although it is often easier to focus manually when you’re working close-up).

These are the Canon EF25 and EF12 extension tubes (now discontinued and replaced with the EF25 II and EF12 II tubes). You can see the electrical contacts in the extension tubes.

You will find plenty of inexpensive extension tubes if you search on Amazon or eBay, and they are fine if you are on a tight budget or just want to play. But if you can, you should buy the second type of extension tube, which is one that maintains the electrical connection between the lens and the camera body.

Nikon, Canon and Olympus make extension tubes for their cameras. Sony doesn’t, but you can buy them from third party manufacturers like Kenko and Vivitar, who also make extension tubes for Canon and Nikon. These tubes are all of the second variety.

Pentax is the odd man out here – the only extension tubes I could find for sale online were more expensive than a Pentax macro lens (I don’t know why). But if you’re a Pentax user, you can buy the first type of extension tube I mentioned easily enough, as long as you’re willing to work within the limitation of losing the lens to camera electrical connection.

Extension tubes work best with lenses of short to medium focal lengths. They are less effective with telephoto lenses.

This is the opposite way around to close-up lenses (see my first article here), which work better with telephoto lenses. The focal length of the lens you intend to use for your close-up work may determine which is the best accessory to buy.

An advantage of extension tubes is that you can use them with any of your lenses. If you buy a set, you can join two extension tubes together to give you even more magnification.

The only disadvantage of extension tubes is that there is some light loss. Adding an extension tube increases the effective aperture of the camera lens, which means you need to use either a longer shutter speed or higher ISO to compensate for the loss of light. Your camera, if it’s set to an automatic exposure mode, will take care of this automatically for you.

Using extension tubes

The best way to use extension tubes is to set the lens to manual focus. You can use the manual focusing ring on your lens to focus on the subject.

Depth-of-field is very narrow this close up. Don’t be afraid to raise your ISO in order to get a small enough aperture to give you adequate depth-of-field. If your subject is still, you can use a tripod – this will let you use a low ISO to maximise image quality and eliminate camera shake.

If you are hand-holding the camera, you may need to use a faster shutter speed than normal to obtain a sharp image. The extra magnification also magnifies camera shake as well as the subject. Shutter speeds of 1/250 second or more are ideal.

What sort of thing can you take photos of with extension tubes? I like to use them for taking photos of flowers. I also had a lot of fun taking photos of my girlfriend’s eye (the opening image to the article). It’s a good illustration of how close you can get if you stack enough extension tubes together.

You can learn more about close-up and macro photography in my new ebook Up Close: A Guide to Macro & Close Up Photography, available now from Craft & Vision.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Extension Tubes: Close Up Photography Lesson #2

How to Create Backlight or Hairlight outdoors with Natural Light

Wed, 2012-07-11 11:57

A Guest Post by Marc from Crooze Photography

A good portrait is all about contrast. Contrast is the difference between lights and darks or sharps and blurry’s in a single photo. Contrast makes a subject stand out. And isn’t that what we want in a beautiful portrait?

Backlight or Hairlight is a great way to make your portrait subject (a human model) stand out. The light comes from the back (hence the name Backlight) and creates a rim of light around the edges of the subjects hair (hence the name Hairlight). This rim of light creates a perfect border of contrast between the model’s head and the background. So what ingredients do we need to create backlight in a natural outdoor environment?

  1. A source of light, mostly the Sun.
  2. A darkish background.
  3. A good placement of the subject.

    Light Source

    When using the sun as a light source, the light must be coming in from a low angle. This means that we are either in the early or mid morning or in the mid or late afternoon. Because long loose hair will be subject to movement by the wind, it’s best to have the wind going into the direction of the Sun. This means that if the wind is coming from the East, it’s better to shoot in the afternoon, when the Sun is in the West. If the wind is coming from the West, it’s better to shoot in the morning.


    So we need a darkish background for the rim of light to stand out. It’s not necessary for the background to be very dark, just a little darker than the subject or the surroundings is enough to create the necessary contrast. A dark background could be formed by some trees with dark leaves and shadows, a dark wall or the shadow side of a building, etc. The key is to take some time and look around. If you just give yourself a minute, you will find the best spot.

    Placement of the Subject

    Now onto the last part of the job: placing your model in the right place. It’s important to get an even distribution of light around the hair. This means that the Sun must be right behind your subject, or just a little off-center. So now we know that the Sun must be in the same direction as your dark background.

    That is the direction that you should be looking at to find your best spot. Now that you found your spot, be sure not to shoot directly into the Sun in order to avoid lens flare (the light that hits your lens directly and causes a blurry haze in your image). A lens hood comes in very handy when trying to avoid lens flare. You may also choose to purposely get lens flare it you want to have that effect in your photo.

    Remember that when shooting a portrait, the most important thing is make your subject look good. So whatever you do to get a nice backlight, don’t forget to pay attention to the other details that you normally take care of. Good luck!

    Check out more from Marc at his website – A Guest Post by Marc from Crooze Photography

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to Create Backlight or Hairlight outdoors with Natural Light

Bioluminescence Under the Stars

Wed, 2012-07-11 07:03

A guest post by Phil Hart – author of the Shooting Stars eBook (currently 40% off at SnapnDeals).

Once you have the skills and equipment, great photographs are often the result of being in the right place at the right time and sometimes that involves a little bit of luck. In the Australian summer of 2008/09, I was very lucky.

I’ve spent many weeks down on the Gippsland Lakes running summer camps with Camp Cooinda and bioluminescence is something we’ve seen quite a few times over the years, although it is normally faint and all but impossible to photograph. But in late December 2008 and early January 2009, the bioluminescence was extremely bright. In fact, bioluminescence as bright as we saw it then must be quite rare anywhere in the world, for there are very few other photos like these ones I captured that summer.

Exactly why it was so bright that year is a complicated story of summer bushfires followed months later by winter floods, which caused high levels of nutrients in the water and ultimately an outbreak of the micro-organism Noctiluca Scintillans. You can read more about that story on my website, but this post is about the photos.

Four years ago, I was using a Canon 20D which was relatively early model DSLR, but still performed quite well in low light and many of my images were taken with the standard 18-55mm lens; proof again that you don’t have to have the latest and most expensive equipment to take great night images.

Canon 20D, 18-55mm lens @27mm, 20 sec, f4, ISO1600

Some of the camp leaders playing in the water provided the first photographic inspiration and a team of us set to work seeing what we could create. The bioluminescence only glows when the water is moved or disturbed, so we started by simply having them splash water in the air, creating a silhouette of somebody standing in front (above). Then they started splashing each other directly – the bioluminescence glowing as it hit their bodies and drained down. This gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘light painting’. The second image shot with a flash on the beach helps explain what was going on, and you can see that the experience was not very pleasant for the person in the middle!

Canon 20D, 18-55mm lens @18mm, 15 sec, f3.5, ISO1600

After the people in the water had got cold and headed to their tents, I spent several hours that night and others following it trying to capture as much as I could on camera. The only fast lens I had was a 50mm f1.4, which was not wide enough for nightscape style images under a starry sky, but was great at picking up the fleeting illumination from the bioluminescence as I threw handfulls of sand and pebbles into the water.

Canon 20D, 50mm lens, 4 sec, f1.4, ISO1600

Being an astronomer, my favourite images are the ones that combine the bioluminescence with the stars above. Some people have a had time believing these images are real, but I can assure you they have not had much processing and looked much the same on the back of the camera at the time. But possibly the most popular image I captured nearly cost me my camera. I had placed a flashlight on the beach pointing back at the camera so that I had something to focus on and was setting up my tripod partly in the (salt) water to get a strong view of the glowing waves right under the camera. As I jumped up to retrieve the flashlight, my leg got caught up in the cable release knocking the tripod and camera down to the ground and into the water. I quickly picked it up and rushed off to find a tap to rinse off the salty water. Fortunately the camera itself had not got too wet so I was able to get back to the photos again soon enough. The tripod though has never been the same since!

Canon 20D, 10-22mm lens @10mm, 2 min, f3.5, ISO1600

That same night I finshed off by taking a series of 2 minute exposures, from a safe position higher up the beach this time. I subsequently stacked the frames to create this star trail image, which is my personal favourite.

Canon 20D, 10-22mm lens @10mm, 45 x 2 min, f3.5, ISO1600

It’s been nearly four years since I took these images but I fear I will have to wait much longer to ever see bioluminescence like it again. If you want to make sure you’ve got the skills to capture amazing night sky images like these when you too find yourself in the right place at the right time, then I’m very confident my eBook Shooting Stars eBook (currently 40% off at SnapnDeals) will help you a lot!

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Bioluminescence Under the Stars

40% off ‘Shooting Stars’ eBook: Deal of the Week

Tue, 2012-07-10 09:25

Have you ever stared at the night sky and wished you could capture it’s beauty and wonder?

With this weeks SnapnDeal you can!

Regular dPS contributor – astrophotographer Phil Hart – is offering readers of dPS 40% off his ‘Shooting Stars’ eBook for the next two weeks.

Normally $24.95 USD – with this deal you get it for just $14.95 USD!

Shooting Stars is an easy to read 149 page eBook which is jam packed full of great teaching and inspiring images.

It will teach you about five key styles of night sky photography and the camera settings you’ll need for each one:

  1. Twilight landscapes
  2. Night sky Scenes (short exposure)
  3. Star Trails (long exposure)
  4. The Moon
  5. Night sky time-lapse videos

Learn more about what is included and see a full table of contents here.

If you’ve ever wanted to photograph the night sky we’re very confident that this book will help you to do it with great results! To back this up – Phil offers a 30 day money back guarantee.

Don’t miss out – this 40% discount will only last 2 weeks.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

40% off ‘Shooting Stars’ eBook: Deal of the Week

Travel Photography, Backpacking and Packing Light

Tue, 2012-07-10 07:30

A Guest Post by Taylor Roades

In April of this year I completed a four-month backpacking trip across China and South East Asia followed by about a month bussing on the greyhound across Canada. I am a professional photographer with a lot of gear and yet I completed the trip with a school sized backpack and a large purse. Seriously.

This article will focus primarily on my photo gear but all my clothing, toiletries, travel documentation, and laptop fit in those bags as well.

There are thousands of sites that will most likely recommend between a 65 and 80L backpack. Which is great for everything, except carrying. I needed to be mobile, and have easy access to my camera equipment. Traveling light was imperative to me and I understand it may not be for everyone but it made the difference to my photography and my trip.

Why You Should Pack Light

1. Arriving – When you first arrive in a new city or location you have the luxury of going out for a meal or meeting a friend without dropping your things at a hotel or hostel. You are able to price shop without the literal weight of having to agree to the first bed you see just to drop your pack.

2. Carry On Luggage – When you are carrying expensive gear carry-on luggage is a must. I did not check a bag on any of my eight flights around Asia and never once had anything stolen. Traveling light means that you can keep an eye on your belongings at all times because you don’t need to store anything below the plane or the bus. (This is especially important if you are busing the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route – this overnight route is notorious for having cash and other valuables stolen from below the bus.)

3. Photographing – Does better equipment make you a better photographer? After a certain level I would argue no. With less equipment you are forced to read light, and subjects and the scenery with more precision. When you are forced to use what you have to the best of your ability you push yourself as a photographer no longer hiding behind gear.

It is easier to pull out of your bag on a moments notice. If your camera is buried beneath layers and layers stuff the less likely you’ll one, put the effort into pulling it out, and two pull it out in time to get the shot.

Finally, getting off the beaten path might only be done on motor bike or by foot and where are you going to store 80Ls worth of stuff then? Travel light and go places where other tourists don’t. Your travel shots will stand out on originality alone.

What Do You REALLY need

Everyone’s shooting style is different and so this is a difficult section to really advise on. But I will tell you. If you are thinking about bringing equipment “just-in-case” don’t – I sent my flash home in the mail from Thailand. I am a natural light photographer. I always have been and I have a flash just in case. I thought it was a good idea to bring along but after two months of zero use. I shipped it to my home in Toronto from the Thai – Cambodia border. If you find yourself in a situation where you could have used it, change your attitude and get creative. Find an alternative and this will make you better. Thinking on the fly is an incredible skill to have.

If I Could Do It Again What Would I Bring

If I could do it all over again my kit would include

  1. Canon 5D
  2. Canon 35mm f1.4
  3. Canon 135mm f2.0
  4. Canon 45mm Tilt Shift (which can double as a regular lens only manual focus)
  5. Two Batteries
  6. Five 8gb memory cards*
  7. Card Reader
  8. Laptop and Camera Battery Charger and Power Adaptors
  9. A Mini six inch tripod. (It didn’t work very well)
  10. A National Geographic Tote Bag
  11. Case Logic SLR Camera Backpack

These are shots of me with the extent of what I travelled with Backpack on left purse/tote bag on right

What I initially brought and shipped home
  1. 580EX Flash
  2. Canon 85mm f1.8
  3. Canon AE-1 (I thought it would be cool to shoot film.)
  4. Film … You can buy it overseas.

*I carried a 13” Macbook and two external hard drives. I was constantly downloading images and clearing cards.

Taylor Roades is a professional wedding and documentary photographer. Her summer wedding commissions are based out of Toronto Canada and in the winter travels internationally to work on projects across the globe.

Where you can find Taylor online: – website – blog – Twitter 

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Travel Photography, Backpacking and Packing Light

Creative Photography: The Opportunity is Right in Front of You

Mon, 2012-07-09 07:23

Ed Verosky is a professional photographer and author based in New York.  Here, Verosky encourages you to get creative with your portrait photography every chance you get.

Experimenting with the technical aspects of photography; lighting, camera settings, and post-processing, are all good ways to grow as a photographer.  But it’s also important for photographers to push themselves creatively.  Some choose to only explore their creative options with personal projects and in their off-time, but the opportunity to push against your creative boundaries is always there.

Fortunately, many of the people who end up in front of your camera will be willing to play along if they feel there’s a reasonable chance that one of your ideas might actually turn into something interesting and have some artistic value (see Figure 1). If your work is any indication of your willingness to push the boundaries, you’ll find that many of the people who want to work with you choose you for those unconventional images. These are people who want to work with someone interesting and creative. Even if all they’re looking for are headshots or lifestyle portraits, something about how you present yourself through your work has made an impression on them enough to want to work with you over someone else.

Your photography is your opportunity and license to explore self-expression through the help of those willing to pose for you. There are benefits for the subject, too. As the artist, you are in a unique position to give them the permission and confidence to express themselves in an artistic, sometimes cathartic way.

Figure 1. Bonnie’s a musician who came over for some headshots, but we found a lace scarf and started experimenting. Lot’s of great shots came out of that shoot.

Just Ask

One of the best ways to stretch your creative muscles is to simply ask your subject—any subject, even a client—if they’d like to try some creative pictures. Explain that sometimes trying something unconventional can make for some surprisingly interesting portraits. If your subject is a model or actor who is willing to try out some creative ideas with you, there’s no telling what you might end up with. These are people who are used to playing characters and can be quite expressive and adventurous as long as you lead the way.

Figure 2. Yesenia and Claire. I started shooting this style of “wood floor” shots after an editorial shoot where I first tried it and liked the look. It’s a mix of direct flash and post-process vignetting. The model is almost always asked to play a character we come up with.

The direction and degree to which you push the boundaries are a personal choice, but where it is within your artistic sensibilities, allow yourself to explore. Not everyone will be interested in participating in a creative exercise, but more often than not, you’ll find people who will be just as happy to try some of your ideas, as you will to try theirs. That is when all sorts of magic happens. Photography can become an amazing adventure for you and your subjects when all the pieces just fall into place. And many of the resultant images can be great additions to your portfolio.

Figure 3. Jessica is a dancer in New York. While doing a quick shoot in Central Park, I asked her to show me some dance poses and we were able to capture several interesting shots.

Experimental Side Dishes

With any photography job I’m on, the required shots are first priority.  Whether it’s a portrait or headshot, or an editorial piece, I will almost always try to get the “safe” shots first.  That is, the shots I’ve been assigned to deliver.  The same is true with concept shots I’ve planned with a model. If time allows, and the subject is willing, I will often try to throw in some last minute experimental ideas to see what happens.

Figure 4. This diptych was created from shots taken near the end of a model shoot. I asked Grace to get into character for a shot that used a single direct light source to acheive this dramatic noir effect.

When Mona Pitts and I set out to shoot some photos for my X-Reel project, the energy was running high after we got the shots I’d planned. People will often come to a shoot with bags of clothing and items that aren’t necessary for the planned shots, but they feel might be helpful if we get stuck for ideas.

Mona brought a red wig and a shiny coat that, together with a pair of boots, made for an awesome kick-butt femme fatale outfit. After a couple of posed cigarette-smoking shots, I positioned my lights to her extreme left and right for a strong graphic effect. The direction I gave her was, “you’re taking down the target in hand-to-hand combat, assassin-style”. I created a collage of the final image as a set of three identical images for a visual bam-bam-bam effect.

Figure 5. Mona The Assassin

Larin, a friend and collaborator of mine, came over for some basic glamour photos, but we also did some moody shots and experimented with the look of modern vampire movies.

Figure 6. Larin: Modern Vampire

So, next time you’re shooting a portrait, ask your subject if they wouldn’t mind experimenting with you to see if the two of you can come up with something interesting. The results might be something both of you will be very happy with.

Popular eBooks by Ed Verosky:
  • 100% Reliable Flash Photography
  • Taking Your Portraiture to the Next Level
  • Taking Your Portraiture to the Next Level II
  • Boudoir Photography
  • DSLR: The Basics

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Creative Photography: The Opportunity is Right in Front of You

Art Wolfe on the Photographic Treasure Hunt

Sun, 2012-07-08 12:39

In this video renowned photographer Art Wolfe shares a little about how he got into photography and some of where he gets inspiration in this video.

Intro by Art Wolfe from Art Wolfe on Vimeo.

I particularly like how Art takes inspiration in different scenes from painters and enjoyed hearing him speak about the challenge that we all face as photographers to find and convey meaning in a scene.

The idea of photography as a treasure hunt is a good one too. Great photos don’t just happen every day – it takes time and great effort to find these ‘treasures’ that get an emotional reaction in those who view our photos.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Art Wolfe on the Photographic Treasure Hunt

Get a New Perspective By Getting High… with your Camera

Sun, 2012-07-08 07:31

Photo by svenwerk

Regular readers of DPS will know of my love for shooting from down low to get an image that emphasizes the height of subjects.

I love the way shooting from ground level creates wonderful foregrounds and puts a completely new perspective of familiar scenes. In addition to this it’s great for photographing children, pets and wildlife as it really puts you on their level and helps you enter their world.

However photography is a wonderful thing because sometimes it’s when you go to extremes that you can get the best shots. While shooting from low down leads to interesting shots – so does getting up high and shooting down on your subject.

Here are six reasons why shooting from up high can be something worth considering:

Photo by rentoholic 17
  1. flattens objects – shooting down on a scene tends to flatten it out. While this can mean depth of field doesn’t come into play as much it can highlight patterns, textures and shapes well.
  2. no horizons – photographing a scene below you eliminates horizons and skies. This means less big empty blue spaces in your shots and hopefully more points of interest.
  3. less distracting backgrounds – because most of your scene will be the same distance from your lens you might find yourself with less (or no) backgrounds to have to scan before you snap your shot.
  4. group shots - if you’re photographing a large group of people, shooting from up high is a great way to fit everyone in as less space is filled up with legs and torsos and more filled up with faces.Photo by Garion88
  5. shadows – I love shooting from up high at the start or end of a day when shadows are at their longest. When shooting from ground level at such times the light can be wonderful but it’s almost impossible to get a full shadow in frame. Shooting down captures the way light hits objects in ways that can give a whole new perspective on a subject.
  6. new perspectives - sometimes it is difficult to photograph familiar objects in a way that keeps them looking fresh and interesting. I’m thinking of iconic buildings or structures for example. Shooting from up high can reveal things about those objects that no one may have seen before.

Do you use this technique? Got any tips to add on the topic?

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Get a New Perspective By Getting High… with your Camera

Exposed: Book Review

Sat, 2012-07-07 12:34

I first took photography classes at The Institute in Photographic Studies – a fabulous workshop based photography school. Some of the greatest learning times we had was when our instructors would take us through their photographic adventures. We students would watch wide eyed as our instructors told the scene and setting of each photo. Our minds would be stretched as we heard them explain the settings, and how they were able to capture what they did. I think it goes beyond the fact that we all like stories. I think that one of the most invaluable things in life is to have someone walk side by side and offer their experiences to us as we learn and grow.

While a book could never replace a person, Exposed comes very close to providing that artistic mentor that each of us needs. With clients from Adventure Magazine, and Travel Magazine, and Mens’ Fitness, what Clark offers is certainly unconventional experience.

Clark has created a portfolio mentor that accounts for 25 different stories from climbing to adventure expeditions, athletic shoots and even a photo campaign for Search and Rescue. Every image featured in Clark’s book reveals a detailed backstory, beyond what is usual for photography books. The reader hears about where Clark was in his life and career at the time, even how he came by the assignment. Each and every photograph includes a story of the time and scene, and of course the challenges Clark encountered along the way as worked toward his goal. Clark is a skillful writer, drawing the reader into each scene as if we were right there with him. Also included is a list of equipment used for each photoshoot.

Clark includes another treat for his readers: He starts his postproduction section by explaining his intent for the image, how that intent influenced his adjustments. In a clear and concise manner, he gives a step by step visual of each step taken in the postproduction in Lightroom.

Not simply an artistic book, Clark also includes advice on marketing, client relations, setting goals, and moving forward in your journey as a photographer. Filled with quotes and inspiration, Clark’s words give both courage and perspective to career photographers at any level: “Embrace risk. That is the key to improving at anything. Without the willingness to go down the uncharted path, you will not learn, you will not improve, you will not grow.”

Get a price on Exposed at Amazon (currently 37% off recommended retail price).

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Exposed: Book Review

Focus On Chris Orwig ~ Savoring Life One Frame At A Time

Sat, 2012-07-07 07:37

I read a lot of photography books, but it is not through one of his books that I was first introduced to the work of Chris Orwig, it is his DVD titled People Pictures that inspired me to learn more about him. Based in Santa Barbara, California, Chris’ environmental portrait work is beautiful in its simplicity. He skillfully captures the personality of his subjects as well as the essence of their environment. He kindly answered a few questions that I am excited to share with the dPS community. After you read his interview, take a moment to visit his website.

1. When did you become aware of your creative side, is it something you developed as an adult or something you grew up with?

I trace my creativity back to being raised in a dynamic family. My Mom, Dad, brother and sister were a constant source of inspiration. Our home was designed and built by my father. It was filled with my mother’s art and artistic sense of design. And it was situated in Northern California where our backyard opened up to rolling hills and oak trees. Needless to say, there was plenty of space to roam. It was this context that nurtured an insatiable curiosity and desire to create and explore the world. From the get go, creativity was expected, assumed and integrated into day-to-day life. I’m deeply grateful for my parents’ and siblings’ influence in this way.

2. When did photography come into your life?

For me, photography is all about savoring life one frame at a time. From this perspective, I’ve been in the business of savoring life and of striving to live to the fullest since I was young. This didn’t always mean that I was taking and making pictures. Yet, this idea or desire has been part of who I am for as long as I can remember. I’m always interested in digging deeper, taking risks, dreaming big dreams…. and really that is what happens every time I click the shutter.

That being said, photography did enter my life in a more meaningful way when I was wrestling with some serious health issues. Photography became a tool, a strategy and a method to take the focus (literally and figuratively) off of my world and me and to focus on something else. This brought incredible hope and healing.

3. How did you become interested in environmental portraiture and what is it that you most enjoy about it?

While I was in graduate school I was required to volunteer at a hospital. I was assigned to the cancer floor and so I spent my days visiting and listening to people battling with cancer. Spending time with people who are dying teaches you a lot about life. And it was here that I really wanted to learn more from those around. I wanted to learn from people from all walks of life. Portraiture is a great way to gain this type of wisdom as it requires that you pause from regular life. In this momentary pause, there is time to ask questions and to learn. Often the questions and the answers are influenced by the context…. the environment. When you photograph someone at the beach or at their home, you get different answers. Embedded in these answers are great slices of insight and truth. And it is because of this, that I truly love environmental portraiture.

4. How do you prepare for an environmental portrait shoot?

I, like most photographers, have too many cameras and too many lenses. One of the first things I do to prepare for a shoot is to start to think about what gear I might want to use. I do this by opening up the journal and writing what I know and what I think about the person I will be photographing. I create a “word picture” of that person. Often this helps inform what gear might help capture and convey how I feel.

5. What gear and editing software do you mainly use?

The gear I use most frequently is a canon digital slr and the 80 f/2 or 50 f/1.2. Other lenses that I really enjoy are the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 35 f/2. I tend to like lenses that require I move and think as I’m trying to compose the frame. In regards to software, I use Lightroom and Photoshop exclusively. I find that these two tools together help me to manage and clarify my vision and voice for my pictures.

6. You often shoot with old film cameras. Why?

Over the last few years, I’ve spent more and more time teaching, writing and speaking about digital imaging. In some ways, I’ve become a digital expert (or so I’ve been called). While I really enjoy working in a digital context, I’ve discovered that in a sense, shooting digitally is like walking a tight rope with a safety net underneath – it doesn’t really take that much expertise. Yet, shooting with film, is like crossing the tight rope without anything to catch your fall. In this way, film is a great teacher. Each click costs a significant amount of money so this makes you want to make each click count. Therefore, as I strive to become a better photographer and better at digital imaging, I’ve found old film cameras to be great teachers. Plus, I really enjoy the surprise, the magic and the feeling of shooting with film.

7. If you could pick anyone, celebrity or other, to do a portrait session with, who would it be and why?

I have a long list of people that I would absolutely love to photograph. One near that top of that list is Bono – the lead singer of the rock band U2. Bono is a fascinating person with such a depth of character. He’s not just a rock star. I like how Bono describes himself in a somewhat recent interview, “”I’m a scribbling, cigar-smoking, wine-drinking, Bible-reading band man. A show-off [laughs] … who loves to paint pictures of what I can’t see. A husband, father, friend of the poor and sometimes the rich. An activist traveling salesman of ideas. Chess player, part-time rock star, opera singer, in the loudest folk group in the world.” That’s the kind of person I want to photograph – someone who doesn’t fit into a typical box. Famous or not, I think there is so much to learn from people like this.

8. What #1 tip would you give a photographer who wants to start shooting environmental portraits?

Photograph people who fascinate you.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Focus On Chris Orwig ~ Savoring Life One Frame At A Time

Details: Weekly Photography Challenge

Fri, 2012-07-06 11:18

This week your photography challenge is to take and share a photo on the theme of ‘details’. The object of the challenge is to drill down a little to focus upon elements within a scene. This technique has been talked about over the last week or so by Christina in her Details in Wedding Photography series but applies to all aspects of photography.

So grab your camera this weekend and allow your eye to be drawn to elements within the places that you go that you might otherwise have missed and have a go at photographing these details.

Once you’ve taken and selected the ‘Speed’ image that you’d like to share – upload it to your favourite photo sharing site or blog and either share a link to it or – embed them in the comments using the our new tool to do so.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites with Tagging tag them as #DPSDETAILS 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.

Also – don’t forget to check out some of the great shots posted in last weeks challenge – SPEED challenge where there were some great shots submitted.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Details: Weekly Photography Challenge

Advanced Composition: Using Geometry

Fri, 2012-07-06 06:53

When you think of composition in photography, what are the first things that comes to mind? Rule of thirds. Fill the Frame. Leading lines. Depth. Repetition. If you are really educated, you may also think of perspective, angles, and color.

The world of artistic composition actually includes quite a bit more than you may think. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just like with the basic rules of composition, you can train your eye to identify the other principles of composition, making your photos more dynamic than you thought possible.

Learning advanced composition is simpler than you may think. You only need to focus on one word: Geometry.

Yes. That course that you took in High School actually can have great influence in your photographic composition. In fact, many artists can subconsciously identify the shapes through a viewfinder, but they wouldn’t necessarily realize it unless pointed out by someone else. I’ll prove it to you:


Using rectangles is a close likeness to Rule of Thirds. However, rather than keeping each section of your frame equal, you can use rectangles of varying sizes to place your subject. In this image the rectangles make up the bottom half of the frame, and the left side of the frame, isolating the light pol as the subject.


I love using circles in photographs. You can capture a certain energy with the motion of a circular line, and also lead your eye through the frame. You can use full circles, or half circles to compose with those curves. The use of circles in this shot draws you into the depth of the scene, allowing you to take in the water and reflection, and the backdrop of the mountains.


Triangles are perhaps the easiest shape to find when composing your images. Go back and look through your photos, and see if you can consistently find triangles. These angles naturally create a depth of composition and interest to your photographs. The separate areas along the fence create a natural flow for your eye to come to the mountain – and even that is in the shape of a triangle.


While you may not look through your viewfinder and say to yourself “I should use a polygon for this image”, you may be surprised by how the use of those shapes help your photographs make sense visually. In this image the Polygon is created by flowers in the foreground – and also a contrast between the light and dark areas.


Squares make excellent frames, and also provide incredible interest with repetition. With this image, the square is in the very middle of the frame, created by the chairs and my subject. Squares are also a part of the background with the books and bookshelves.


Arches have the similar natural motion of circles, but these may be more a part of the background than a complete shape in itself. The heart shape of the hands in the background create 3 arches – which also frame the flower itself.

Parallel Lines & Converging Lines:

It can be very difficult to use lines well. But not only is it possible, when used, these parallel and converging lines can be quite effective for composing background elements. In this shot there are both. The lines pews mirroring one another, and the direction of the pews leading you in toward the subject.

Space: Relationship and Balance

Having a solid understanding of space will add additional strength and storytelling to your photos. As you see with this image – which is compositionally quite simple – there is more established by how close the viewer is to bench, and then how much space and emptiness there is behind. These elements can lead the viewer to create a story from their own experience or emotions.

Spend a bit of time taking one element at a time, and practicing your compositional techniques. You may not master the advanced principles right away, but you certainly will enjoy the challenge!

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Advanced Composition: Using Geometry

Solo, Teaming up, or Photo Tour

Thu, 2012-07-05 08:08

A Guest Post by Piper Mackay from

Picking up a camera seems to unleash a new curiosity about our planet inspiring most of us to seek out an exotic destination and experience for our selves what we have already viewed through the eyes of another wanting to capture our own experience and vision. But, then comes the hard decision of the logistics and whether it is best to go solo, with a few photography friends, or choosing an organized tour.

Flying by the seat of your pants and going off to an exotic location to freely capture your experience simply as a documentary of your journey is a dream but is probably not a reality for most serious photographers. In order to have a successful photographic journey it is important to have some idea of why you are there taking photographs.

The best way to answer that is to be very honest with yourself and ask; why this destination, what really drew me to it, is it more for me personally or does it fit my business model, and what do I really want to achieve? Are the images for stock, editorial, fine art prints, a personal project, or just because. Once these questions have been answered it will be much easier to make a decision on how and with whom to travel.

Going Solo

The answer on whom to travel with should be based on how specific your out come is. If you are planning a personal project where it is all about your vision; you need to gain access to specific areas, capture specific images, and get to locations far off the beaten path where you may have to stay in a small dome tent for several days, then going solo would probably be the best choice. If not you maybe very disappointed when you put out a lot of money for a photographic tour because it is easier and then return home without all the images you truly went there to create. Traveling solo gives you complete freedom but it is usually the most expensive way to travel, requires a lot of research, and when there are problems they all fall on you.

Teaming Up

If you are going because you want to explore the area, see what you see, photograph whatever inspires you and hope to capture some amazing editorial or stock shots, then teaming up with one or two other photographers is a great way to go. You share the responsibility of all the research, share the finances, work through the unexpected together, collaborate creatively, and it is always more fun to go with someone that go it alone. Traveling with one or two other photographer’s still gives you a lot of freedom and is a great way to go, but it can be difficult to find other photographer’s that you know personally that want to travel to the same area as you at the same time you can travel.

If you decide to travel with a few other photographers make sure you know them and have some kind of relationship with them. Be careful of someone you may meet over social media as they maybe misrepresenting themselves, their abilities and knowledge. If you choose to go with another photographer you have met over the internet, just do your research and check out their website, talk to others who do know them personally, have some verbal conversations over the phone or skype and make sure you will be comfortable traveling with them. If there is a problem there is no leader to resolve the issue and you may have to deal with a difficult situation.

Organized Photo Tours

Taking a photo tour has many advantages, even for professionals.

The biggest advantages is there is very little to do except thoroughly read through the itinerary, pack your gear and clothes, and go. You also have some available 24/7 to take care of any problems that arise. You still need to read through all the details in the itinerary, make sure they are going to the places you want to go and will get you there for the best light and ask questions about anything you are not sure of but it saves you loads of time, research and responsibilities. A photo tour it is a great way to network and spend quality time with like mined people sharing a passion and their knowledge. I have maintained solid friendships that were started on a photo tour. Photo tours are all most always cheaper than going solo but most leaders try to stick with the itinerary because the people who have signed up on the trip did so based on the itinerary. Don’t chose to go on a photo tour because it is easy and then be disappointed that you were not able to make a side trip to an event or village that you really wanted to visit.

Taking a big trip, one that could be a trip of a lifetime, usually is a big financial commitment so slow down and invest the proper time in planning the right journey whether you go solo, with some friends, or with and organized tour. Don’t have big expectations attached to your out come. Knowing why you are shooting, such as for editorial, fine art, or just for fun will help you make decisions in planning your trip but don’t go into a magical place with the idea that what you shoot must get you published in National Geographic, signed with Getty Images, or a solo exhibit at a respected gallery. This can ruin your experience and will usually not produce the compelling images that come from the heart. Let the camera be an excuse to explore and discover a place you never would have gone to before you dreamed of capturing it through your own lens.

Piper Mackay is a professional travel and wildlife photographer whose work is heavily based in Eastern Africa. She is currently leading both wildlife and cultural safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Her work is represented by Getty images and she is and instructor for the Travel and Editorial track at Calumet. View her work at

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Solo, Teaming up, or Photo Tour

Wedding Details for Beginners

Wed, 2012-07-04 07:32

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ins and outs to capture gorgeous wedding details shots of rings and jewellery. We discussed the elements of clarity, depth of field, environment and background, light, and composition and how each can influence the success of a detail shot.

When it comes to the other details – the dress, the shoes, the flowers – those factors are all still true. However there are a few others to consider as well:

Doorways, Windows, and Dresses

There is nothing more perfect than a doorway for the creation of a dress shot. You can typically hang the dress from the lip of the doorway, allowing the train to fall gently and create dimension from the light. The best part about doorways for these kind of shots is that you can use the light from either the inside or the outside, completely changing the feel of each shot.

Doorways and Shoes

Best kept secret about using doorways for detail shots: use doorway light for creating shoe shots. The light is more direct, and spread out further than what you get from a window. This gives you a little bit larger of a space to create with.

Window Light and Flowers

The light from a window can create the most stunning soft and subdued images – and this is no secret in the wedding industry. One of my favorite reasons for using a window is the fact that you can use the window for composition, and you often have curtains or shades to control the specific amount of light that you want to use.

Chairs and Beds

Yes, there is a chance that chairs and beds are slightly overused in wedding detail pictures. But truth be told its for good reason. Beds and chairs provide excellent texture and a simplicity for backgrounds. Change your angles and perspectives to create a more unique shot.


Who said that the dress shot needs to always be hanging? It may take more time, but I do love the shots that I was detailed enough to create a dress photo using a settee or couch. You have complete control over how you arrange the material, forming luscious folds and texture.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Wedding Details for Beginners

How to Photograph Fireworks Displays

Tue, 2012-07-03 16:37
Photo by hupaishi

Do you want to know how to photograph fireworks With 4th July just days away I thought I’d refresh this article in which I give 10 Fireworks Photography tips to help you get started.

Fireworks Displays are something that evoke a lot of emotion in people as they are not only beautiful and spectacular to watch but they also are often used to celebrate momentous occasions.

I’ve had many emails from readers asking how to photograph fireworks displays, quite a few of whom have expressed concern that they might just be too hard to really photograph. My response is always the same – ‘give it a go – you might be surprised at what you end up with’.

My reason for this advice is that back when I bought my first ever SLR (a film one) one of the first things I photographed was fireworks and I was amazed by how easy it was and how spectacular the results were. I think it’s even easier with a digital camera as you can get immediate feedback as to whether the shots you’ve taken are good or not and then make adjustments.

Of course it’s not just a matter of going out finding a fireworks display – there are, as usual, things you can do to improve your results. With New Years Eve just around the corner I thought I’d share a few fireworks digital photography tips:

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1. Use a Tripod Photo by Piero Sierra

Perhaps the most important tip is to secure your digital camera to something that will ensure it doesn’t move during the taking of your shots. This is especially important in photographing fireworks simply because you’ll be using longer shutter speeds which will not only capture the movement of the fireworks but any movement of the camera itself. The best way to keep your camera still is with a tripod (read our series on tripods and how to use and buy them). Alternatively – keep in mind that there are other non Tripod options for beating camera shake.

2. Remote Release

One way to ensure your camera is completely still during fireworks shots is to invest in a remote release device. These will vary from camera to camera but most have some sort of accessory made for them. The other way of taking shots without touching your camera is to use the self timer. This can work but you really need to be able to anticipate shots well and its very very hit and miss (read more on remote shutter releases).

3. Framing Your Shot

One of the most difficult parts of photographing fireworks is working out where to aim your camera. The challenge you’ll face in doing this is that you generally need to aim your camera before the fireworks that you’ll be photographing goes off – anticipation is key. Here are a few points on getting your framing right.

Photo by Stuck in Customs
  • Scope out the location early – Planning is important with fireworks and getting to the location early in order to get a good, unobstructed position is important. Think about what is in the foreground and background of your shots and make sure you won’t have people’s heads bobbing up into your shots (also consider what impact you’ll have on others around you also). Take note of where fireworks are being set up and what parts of the sky they are likely to be shot into – you might also want to try to ask some of those setting up the display for a little information on what they are planning. Also consider what focal lengths you might want to use and choose appropriate lenses at this time (rather than in the middle of the show).
  • Watch your Horizons - One thing that you should always consider when lining up fireworks shots is whether your camera is even or straight in it’s framing. This is especially important if you’re going to shooting with a wide focal length and will get other background elements in your shots (ie a cityscape). Keeping horizons straight is something we covered previously on this site and is important in fireworks shots also. As you get your camera on your tripod make sure it’s level right from the time you set up.
  • Vertical or Horizontal? – There are two main ways of framing shots in all types of photography, vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape). Both can work in fireworks photography but I personally find a vertical perspective is better – particularly as there is a lot of vertical motion in fireworks. Horizontal shots can work if you’re going for more of a landscape shot with a wider focal length of if you’re wanting to capture multiple bursts of fireworks in the one shot – but I don’t tend to go there that often.
  • Remember your framing – I find that when I photograph fireworks that I spend less time looking in my viewfinder and more looking at the sky directly. As a result it’s important to remember what framing you have and to watch that segment of the sky. Doing this will also help you to anticipate the right time for a shot as you’ll see the light trails of unexploded rockets shooting into the sky.
4. Focal Length? Photo by asmundur

One of the hardest parts of photographing fireworks is having your camera trained on the right part of the sky at the right time. This is especially difficult if you’re shooting with a longer focal length and are trying to take more tightly cropped shots. I generally shoot at a wider focal length than a tight one but during a show will try a few tighter shots (I usually use a zoom lens to give me this option) to see if I can get lucky with them. Of course zoomed in shots like the one to the left can be quite effective also. They enable you to really fill the frame with great color. Keep in mind however that cropping of your wider angle fireworks shots can always be done later to get a similar impact in your photography.

5. Aperture

A common question around photographing fireworks displays is what aperture to use. Many people think you need a fast lens to get them but in reality it’s quite the opposite as the light that the fireworks emit is quite bright. I find that apertures in the mid to small range tend to work reasonably well and would usually shoot somewhere between f/8 to f/16.

6. Shutter Speed Photo by *vlad*

Probably more important to get right than aperture is shutter speed. Fireworks move and as a result the best photographs of them capture this movement meaning you need a nice long exposure. The technique that I developed when I first photographed fireworks was to shoot in ‘bulb’ mode. This is a mode that allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter (preferably using a remote shutter release of some type). Using this technique you hit the shutter as the firework is about to explode and hold it down until it’s finished exploding (generally a few seconds).

You can also experiment with set shutter speeds to see what impact it will have but I find that unless you’re holding the shutter open for very long exposures that the bulb technique works pretty well.

Don’t keep your shutter open too long. The temptation is to think that because it’s dark that you can leave it open as long as you like. The problem with this is that fireworks are bright and it doesn’t take too much to over expose them, especially if your shutter is open for multiple bursts in the one area of the sky. By all means experiment with multiple burst shots – but most people end up finding that the simpler one burst shots can be best.

7. ISO Photo by Mr Magoo ICU

Shooting at a low ISO is preferable to ensure the cleanest shots possible. Stick to ISO 100 and you should be fine.

8. Switch off your Flash

Shooting with a flash will have no impact upon your shots except to trick your camera into thinking it needs a short exposure time. Keep in mind that your camera’s flash will only have a reach of a few meters and in the case of fireworks even if they were this close a flash wouldn’t really have anything to light except for some smoke which would distract from the real action (the flashing lights).Switch your flash off.

9. Shoot in Manual Mode

I find I get the best results when shooting in manual exposure and manual focus modes. Auto focusing in low light can be very difficult for many cameras and you’ll end up missing a lot of shots. Once your focusing is set you’ll find you don’t really need to change it during the fireworks display – especially if you’re using a small aperture which increases depth of field. Keep in mind that changing focal lengths will mean you need to need to adjust your focusing on most lenses.

10. Experiment and Track Results Photo by y entonces

Throughout the fireworks display periodically check your results. I generally will take a few shots at the start and do a quick check to see that they are OK before shooting any more. Don’t check after every shot once you’ve got things set up OK (or you’ll miss the action) but do monitor yours shots occasionally to ensure you’re not taking a completely bad batch.

Also experiment with taking shots that include a wider perspective, silhouettes and people around you watching the display. Having your camera pointed at the sky can get you some wonderful shots but sometimes if you look for different perspectives you can get a few shots that are a little less cliche and just as spectacular. Most of the best shots that I’ve seen in the researching of this article have included some other element than the fireworks themselves – whether it be people, buildings, landmarks or wider cityscape perspectives.

More Tips from DPS Readers

  • “Find Out the Direction of the Wind – You want to shoot up wind, so it goes Camera, Fireworks, Smoke. Otherwise they’ll come out REALLY hazy.”
  • “Also, I find that if you shoot from a little further back and with a little more lens, you can set the lens to manual focus, focus it at infinity and not have to worry about it after that.”
  • “Remember to take advantage of a zero processing costs and take as many pictures as possible (more than you’d normally think necessary). That way, you’ll up your chances of getting that “perfect” shot.”
  • “Make sure you are ready to take pictures of the first fireworks. If there isn’t much wind, you are going to end up with a lot of smoke in your shot. The first explosions are usually the sharpest one.”
  • “Get some black foam core and set your camera to bulb. Start the exposure when the fireworks start with the piece of foam core in front of the lens. Every time a burst happens move the foam core out of the way. You will get multiple firework bursts in one exposure”
  • “Another tip I would add to this is pre-focus if possible (need to be able to manually focus or lock down focus for good) before the show starts so other elements in the frame are sharp They did mention that you only need to focus once but its a lot easier to take a few shots before the show starts and check them carefully rather than wait until the show has begun and you are fiddling with focus instead of watching fireworks!”

Tell us your fireworks display photography tips in comments below. Don’t forget to tell us which city you’re in and what the fireworks are like there!

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PS: Got some fireworks photos to share with us? Head over to our forum where there are a few fireworks photography discussions taking place.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to Photograph Fireworks Displays

Understanding RAW Photography [Book Review]

Tue, 2012-07-03 11:13

If you have dabbled in RAW photography you will already be aware of its advantages. But … even if you’ve taken it to its extremes there will still be enormous gaps in your knowledge. Betcha!

This book will surprise you with its info on not only RAW’s enormous benefits to enhanced image capture but also to its limitations … in an archival sense.

Author Taylor describes ‘raw’ as “a synonym of uncooked, unrefined and unprepared.” In his view “a RAW file is a package of the image data captured by the camera sensor when you press the shutter release button …”

He adds that RAW images are initially disappointing, appearing flat and washed out when compared to the “ready to eat” JPEG file. But the RAW image has potential!

Taylor makes the very important point that there is nothing difficult about shooting RAW but there may be some habits that need to be unlearned.

JPEG images are written to memory as finished images, ready to be added to a document or printed directly. RAW files usually cannot be used straight from the camera; they need to be processed and saved in a more useable file type. The effort in doing so can eat up much more time than in taking the original shot.

The book moves through the topics of how a sensor works, then discusses subjects such as bit-depth and colour space, metadata, suitable equipment, lens distortions, chromatic aberration, vignetting, PC versus Mac, suitable monitors and useful software.

An extremely useful chapter deals with exposure and touches on such matters as juggling lens aperture and shutter speed as well as the resultant depth of field that derives from the former.

The book abounds in useful advice: suggested are ways to increase a camera’s dynamic range with graduated filters, polarisers or HDR photography; there is also an unusual helper in the method of deliberately “exposing to the right” …ie overexposing a photograph. Although the display on your camera’s LCD screen may be washed out, the original can be fixed in post editing. Taylor holds that exposing to the right means you will maximise the image’s clean data and minimise the amount of noisy data. Worth a try!

As many of you will know there is no single RAW file format: the camera manufacturers have muddied the water by installing their own specific RAW types; so you get Nikon cameras saving in .NEF, Sony saving in .ARW, Canon in .CR2 … along with its earlier and no longer used .CRW format; there are others.

These formats may also change over time as cameras undergo development, leaving you with camera originals no longer readable with current software. Parallel with this is Adobe’s RAW format .DNG, which the company hopes will become a standard.

In spite of the compact size of the book the information in its pages is extremely valuable. An excellent primer on the subject.

  • Author: D Taylor.
  • Publisher: Ammonite Press.
  • Length: 192 pages.
  • ISBN: 978 1 90770 855 8.
  • Price: Get a price on Understanding RAW Photography at Amazon where it is currently 32% off

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Understanding RAW Photography [Book Review]

9 Tips for Capturing the City in Motion

Tue, 2012-07-03 07:54

Street photography is one thing, but capturing the heartbeat of the city is something else. The everyday motion of the metropolis’ can make for some of the most compelling photographs, as it: wakes up to a serene surreal world, endures the hustle and bustle of day, ebbs as the commuter crowds leave at night and finally how it rejoices its nocturnal form.

In this article discover some top tips for photographing a city in full flow.

1. Capture ‘Flow’ and ‘Energy’

The image should embody some flow of energy and in a city that energy is everywhere. It is just a case of knowing where to look. The fantastic thing about this niche is that its subjects are varied, exciting and endless; a bridge covered in human traffic as the commuter rush begins, trails of city traffic graffiti a night vista, a subway train dashing into a tunnel – its motion blurred yet its platform crisp. Walk through the city and stop when you feel a rush of people or traffic around. Then compose the shot to convey the rush and fire at will.

2. Consider angles and perspective

Whilst the hustle and bustle might look interesting head on, consider moving to higher ground to offer a more dynamic result. A unique angle or perspective can turn a standard image into something much more compelling.

3. Photograph the same scene though various stages of the day

Whilst one corner of the metropolis may look ordinary at 10am, it may look ten times more evocative and exciting come 10pm.

4. Try alternating lenses

Using a lens of 50mm replicates what the human eye is capable of seeing. Whilst this can be useful for stealing environmental portraits try using a wide-angle lens to get closer to a subject or incorporate a greater scope of the action.

5. Capture Motion

Capturing motion is a fantastic way to convey that the city is alive. Set your camera on a tripod or pop it on some other form of support such as a nearby wall or window ledge. You’ll need to vary the ISO depending on the light levels and time of day, and then gradually slow down the shutter speed until you create a level of blur you are happy with. Use the camera’s self timer or a remote release to counter the long exposures, to ensure images are sharp.

6. Light Trails

Traffic light trails may be cliché, but done right they can become the electric veins of the city. Find a safe location above, next to, or even in the centre of traffic. Use a tripod and turn of the lens’ image stabilisation function. If the traffic is heavy set the exposure time for between 10 and 20 seconds, if it is sparser execute a longer exposure. Always check the LCD for results and amend the shutter speed and ISO as required.

7. Panning

Shoot an individual or vehicle in focus, and display their energy with a blur of motion behind them. To do this simply set the camera on a tripod and then lock the focus on your subject. Dial in a narrow aperture of between f/11 to f/22, and an exposure time of around 1/25 to 1/60. As you hit the shutter, pan the tripod at the same time. Vary the effect by trying it in both directions.

8. Look for Juxtaposition and Contrast

Look for areas that display heightened contrast, whether that means light and shade, movement and tranquillity, or a variance in colour, texture or flow. The juxtaposition, which lends itself to the genre, helps to create tension within the frame.

9. Practice Locally

Practise in your nearby town or city, then as your confidence grows try using facilities such as Google Earth to source other bustling hotspots that may be nearby. Also trawl through sites such as Flickr and Behance to scope out where other photographers have found alive and swinging.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

9 Tips for Capturing the City in Motion