How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

The post How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Shooting flowers is a passion for many photographers. Time spent out in the garden with your camera can become almost a form of meditative practice as you compose images surrounded by nature. It’s no wonder that so many photographers long to shoot beautiful flower images. But shooting close-up images of flowers can be an expensive business. Many tutorials will tell you that you need specialist macro lenses, proprietary macro extension tubes, or converters to reverse a lens that you already own. However, using close-up filters are a great alternative.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower-photography

Close-up filters are an option for macro photography that rarely makes it into the tutorial list. Many will tell you that they degrade the final image too much; they cause distortion and focus issues. However, in this article, I’m going to make the case that these filters can enable you to think in a more abstract way as you embrace their unique and imperfect properties!

What are close-up filters?

Close-up filters can also be called close-up lenses or macro filters. They are essentially a magnifying glass that screws into the filter thread on the front of your lens.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower-photography

When you buy a set of close-up filters, you need to know what lens you’re going to use them on. This is because you buy them according to the filter size of that lens. I suggest picking either a standard zoom or a prime lens in the 50mm to 100mm range and purchasing your filters for the thread size of that particular lens.

Close-up filters differ to budget extension tubes in one key way – you don’t lose electronic control of your lens. That means the autofocus will (just about) still work, and the aperture control in your camera settings will still work. Because budget extension tubes do not carry an electronic signal between your camera and your lens, you have to use it manually. For that reason I prefer close up filters – it makes changing your settings on the fly much easier!

using-close-up-filters-for-flower-photography

The image on the left was shot with just the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens. The image on the right had a +10 close-up filter screwed onto the front of the lens.

The last thing to know about close up filters is that they have different magnification strengths – just like buying a magnifying glass. The higher the number, the more you will magnify your subject and the closer you can get. All of the images in this article have been shot using a +10 close-up filter on a Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens (roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera).

Why shoot abstract photos?

Abstract photos can really help to free you up from the common “rules” of photography. You can start to think outside of the box without wondering if an image is sharp enough all over, or if the colors are perfectly rendered.

How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

That’s not to say that abstract photography is a way to “save” a bad photograph. As much thought and consideration should go into an abstract as it would a more traditional image.

Once you’ve learned to let go of the rules you might find that expressing yourself through color, shape, and texture can be relaxing. Experimenting with abstract photography can bring a whole new dimension to your work. It can even make you think about other kinds of photography differently. You’ll be much more careful when placing colors and lines in images in the future if you spend some time creating abstract compositions.

Tips for photographing flowers

Once you’ve got your close-up filter screwed to the front of your lens, head outside for a play. You won’t need a tripod at first – bump up your ISO and try handholding some close-up shots on a day with bright but overcast light (or shoot in the shade, of course).

Get the shot in focus

I recommend turning your autofocus off. We’re going to be working with some really shallow depth of field and that means your camera will often lock the focus on to something you don’t want it to.

How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

Instead, you can use your body to move the subject in and out of focus. Carefully lean a fraction closer or further away, and you’ll see different parts of the images go in and out of focus. It takes some practice to get the hang of, but after a while, it’ll feel really natural.

If you’re a little unsteady and struggle to get the right part of the image in focus, try shooting a burst of three or five images and select the best one later. You can also use a tripod if you want to (if it is a very still day with no wind). However, I find that a tripod can often hinder creativity when you’re trying to think fast and look for new and fascinating angles and compositions.

Select an aperture

The aperture setting that you choose can change the whole feeling of an image. When you’re working this close to a subject, the depth of field can be as thin as a few millimeters.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower-photography

By using a very shallow depth of field, you can draw attention to just one part of a scene and throw the background and foreground completely out of focus. However, when shooting close up, it does mean that the whole flower or object might not be all in focus. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing – just picking a small part of the flower to be in focus can be a stylistic choice.

What can be interesting though is the way that the close-up filters interact with a wide-open lens. You begin to get these hazy, dreamy images that are somewhat unpredictable. It’s almost like a Lensbaby Velvet in some respects – or possibly a bit like smearing vaseline on your lens!

Composition is key

Since abstract photography often takes a subject and then makes it unrecognizable, all you have left is the composition and colors. That means you need to start thinking about how to mix shape, lines, form, textures, and colors to express emotions or tell stories. You cannot rely on recognizable and familiar objects anymore.

There are many compositional rules out there to study and put into practice. I have always found it helpful to spend as much time as possible looking at other peoples art (both in galleries and online) and trying to understand what makes a composition pleasing. You don’t have to know all of the rules of composition by name. But having a sense of how the position of elements in the frame and the color wheel work together to create interesting compositions can be a huge help when shooting abstracts.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower-photography

If you are shooting digital, don’t be afraid to shoot multiple images of the same scene and resist subjects. Try placing the main focus on different parts of the image, (including blurry foreground elements), and seeing how different aperture settings look.

You can also think about editing your photographs afterward to change the colors in the image. A slight shift in color, some noise added, or a touch of contrast on the focal point can really change the mood of the shot.

So for a very small investment (certainly compared to the rest of your camera gear), you can open up a new world of artistic abstract photography by using close-up filters. Also, better than that, it can happen entirely in your front garden!

Let us know if you shoot any images inspired by this article – post the results in the comments below!

 

using-close-up-filters-for-flower-photography

The post How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Should You Purchase Lightroom Presets?

The post Should You Purchase Lightroom Presets? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

The discussion of using presets or not comes up time and time again on various photography groups and websites. Some people are for them and others are against. Just like camera brands, it seems there is no clear answer, and everyone believes that their way is correct! For or against, it’s undeniable that presets are here and they’re not going anywhere. Many people find them useful in their workflow and so they will keep using them. So, should you purchase Lightroom presets?

The case for buying presets

A quick search online will give you hundreds of places you can buy presets and they will all have varying quality. Before you make your purchase, be sure to read some reviews to see if others are happy with their purchase. Remember that your style of images will heavily affect the way presets look when applied, so expect some trial and error!

But why would you buy presets rather than make them yourself from scratch? Here are some reasons to help you decide if buying presets is for you.

It will save you time

There’s no doubt about it, buying presets will save you time in your workflow. You won’t have to spend time coming up with looks that you like. Instead, someone else has completed the initial hard work for you.

Should-You-Purchase-Lightroom-Presets-4

In reality, using presets in this way is no different from choosing what film stock and developer you’d like to use if you’re shooting analog. You’re using someone else’s color toning ideas to achieve the images you want to produce.

Being able to quickly apply lots of different looks to your photo can help you quickly make decisions about how it will look. And then you can set about refining it and doing the fun part of processing.

It gets you away from the computer

Not everyone loves the digital darkroom. During the summer, I’d rather be taking advantage of the good weather than sitting at my computer developing images. Having a set of presets available to me that someone else has created means each shot takes less time to process. That way, I’m spending more time doing the things I love.

Should-You-Purchase-Lightroom-Presets-3

I can share stylish images that I’m proud of within minutes of loading my images into Lightroom thanks to my preset library. That’s a big draw for me, and that’s why I love having a bank of presets ready for me to choose from.

You can borrow the best of other peoples ideas

Everybody sees the world differently. You might never have thought to put a pop of pink in the shadows or add just enough grain to make your black and white conversion look like it was shot on fast film.

By purchasing a library of presets, you can see how other people might have chosen to process your images. And that might give you a few ideas for a new direction that you want to head in. Purchasing Lightroom presets really can boost your creativity and help you see new possibilities for your images.

Should-You-Purchase-Lightroom-Presets-2

Some people would say this is ‘cheating’ somehow, but I think of it as gathering inspiration. It’s like an artist going to her friend’s studio, finding the most beautiful custom blue paint and then asking if she can have the recipe to use the color in her own work. The two artists won’t be producing the same artwork even if they use the same color paint!

Your photos will still have your own touch and your own style even if you use other peoples ideas to help you shoot or post-process your images.

Some people are just better at post-processing and color grading than you

Face it – you can’t be amazing at everything. Even the best photographers often employ other people to help create their vision. Buying presets is like a real cheap version of having your own digital tech assistant available for your shoots. If you have a vision of light and airy photos but your post-processing skills aren’t quite up to it, then presets can help you get there – just like a digital tech assistant would on a high-end shoot.

Over time, you can learn more about this side of photography. But you can start getting great results now by taking advantage of other peoples knowledge and creativity.

The case for making presets yourself

Of course, if you love working in the digital darkroom, then the idea of buying presets to save time or get ideas might seem completely alien to you. Moreover, if you like spending the time to make your own presets, then that’s great! You should absolutely continue to do what makes you happy.

There are other reasons too that you might want to make your own presets. The most obvious one is that presets available to purchase may not be exactly what you’re looking for. When you make your own, you can have exactly what you want rather than just getting close.

You might have other considerations too. For instance, some camera clubs do not allow you to enter images into competitions where you have used purchased presets in their post-processing. Or you may feel that ethically a picture cannot be truly called your own unless you created every single part of the image.

Perhaps try a combination?

Personally, I use a combination of both. I have a large library of presets that I’ve purchased. I use this library to quickly see what images could look like with different color grading applied to them.

When I’ve found a look that I love, I tweak it slightly to suit the mood of my images even more. If I think I’ll use the preset again, I then save my new custom preset in a folder with the others that I’ve tweaked to suit my style!

Should-You-Purchase-Lightroom-Presets

I like this way of working because I enjoy getting inspiration from other peoples presets, and then finishing the images off to achieve something that is genuinely my own.

What do you think about buying presets? Should you purchase Lightroom presets? Perhaps you have a library of your own that you’ve already purchased? Or do you prefer to make all of yours from scratch? Maybe you don’t use presets at all, instead preferring to start each time with a blank slate when it comes to post-processing images?

 

should-you-purchase-lightroom-presets

The post Should You Purchase Lightroom Presets? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details

The post Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Cars and photography often seem to go hand in hand. Whether you’re a car owner with a camera or a photographer with a passion for the classics, the perfect automotive photo can often seem just out of reach.

Automotive photography can be both tricky and expensive. To get catalog-ready images of cars, the top commercial photographers often utilize huge specialist studios with large banks of powerful lights and massive pieces of equipment to block or reflect light. Each shot can take days to set up even with a team of assistants.

Realistically, most car enthusiasts don’t have this kind of space or equipment at their disposal. Instead, we seek out opportunities to photograph cars at racetracks or other gatherings. These events rarely offer “perfect” conditions to create flawless images of cars, so a bit of creative thinking is usually required!

The Rallye Monte Carlo Historique stops in Banbury every year so that enthusiasts can see these classic cars up close. But the backdrop is far from ideal for beautiful photos!

Car meets can often be busy affairs with cars parked close together, uninspiring backdrops, and lots of people milling around. Concentrating on the details is one way to get around some of these problems and still come away with shots that you love and can feel proud adding to a portfolio. Detail shots often do well on platforms like Instagram too where the small format allows close-up images to shine.

So with that in mind, here are some ideas for bagging great pictures of the cars you see on your travels if you can’t shoot them in a location of your choice.

Get up close… closer than you think!

By getting in close you eliminate many of the problems that would otherwise sneak into your picture; other cars in the background, or people in the corner of your shot. Focussing on just one small part of a car can remove all of those distractions.

Alternative-Automotive-Photography-1

Not having to take into consideration the background also frees you up to concentrate more on composition. No more worrying about if the backdrop will compliment the car, or what the sky is doing!

You can also use a shallow depth of field to blur out distracting elements in your photographs. Use just enough depth to highlight the detail that you’re photographing. Everything else will then melt away into the background, keeping your viewer looking just where you want them to.

Pick a theme

At some point over the years, I’ve picked up a habit of shooting the wing mirrors on cars. I don’t know which one was my first, but I soon started noticing the way that they were all different. Each mirror was only a small part of the car, but they pack a big punch when it comes to design! Now I can’t seem to walk past a classic car without taking a photograph of its mirrors!

Alternative-Automotive-Photography-2

By picking a theme, it will challenge you to go looking for shots that are different from what everyone else is shooting. Also, you’ll start to notice other details as you train your creativity. Before long, you will seek out creative and different images without even really having to think about it.

Shoot iconic details

Pick out just one detail to highlight and then try to take the perfect shot of just that part. Perhaps it’s a classic Cadillac fin or an elegant Rolls Royce grid that catches your eye. Whatever it is that you love most about a car, or is most iconic and well-known, use that as your starting point when you’re working out what pictures you want to take.

Alternative-Automotive-Photography-3

Cars are more than just machines that get us from A to B. The most iconic are beautiful and remarkable pieces of design that the original designer has spent hundreds of hours perfecting. Nothing on a great car is an accident; everything was designed to be exactly how you see it.

The good thing about iconic details is that they’re often instantly recognizable. It tells people what the photograph is of, even though it might be an abstracted close-up.

Portray the luxury

Beautiful cars are a luxury; there’s no debate to be had there. So challenge yourself to convey the luxury through your photographs.

Alternative-Automotive-Photography-4

Lifestyle photography with shallow depth of field, out of focus foregrounds, and toned colors are really in vogue right now for luxury brands. Now is the time to try this style out if you can get up close and personal with some top of the range machines!

Make sure that your focus is right on the nail if you’re attempting shots with a shallow depth of field. If you miss the focus even slightly, the shot won’t be worth keeping.

Stick to a neutral focal length

Extreme wide-angle photographs can look cool, there’s no doubt about it. And I know every car photographer has, at least once, got down at the front corner of a car with a wide-angle lens to try and make it look more imposing and dramatic.

But wide-angle focal lengths distort cars and change the carefully designed, and often iconic lines and features. Instead of grabbing the easy (and predictable) win when it comes to creating a dramatic image, try sticking to a neutral focal length and challenging yourself.

Keeping to a focal length like 50mm means shooting images that are much closer to how the human eye naturally sees the world. Using a focal length around 50mm means that you keep the cars much closer to the designer’s original vision when you photograph them.

This might mean that you have to work harder to look for different ways to produce impact with your photographs. However, it also means that you represent the cars in the way that they’re meant to be seen. It gives an element of authenticity to your images.

I’ve never been one for believing that photography is simply about recording the world around you exactly how it is. But when it comes to the design of cars, I’m pretty sure that the original designer knows more about how the car looks best than I do. So distorting it with wide-angle lenses is rarely high on my priority list!

Embrace reflections… and wear black

In ideal conditions, you’d be able to use black and white cards, and lights, to block and place reflections exactly where you want them on a car before you took a photograph. Realistically, though, you’re rarely going to get the opportunity to work with this kind of precision in the great outdoors.

Carry a 5-in-1 reflector in your kit by all means. Sometimes you just need to lift a shadow on a bit of paintwork or cut out a reflection in some chrome. But instead of trying to eliminate every reflection you dislike, try embracing them instead!

Reflections of the sky or foliage around you can make some interesting patterns when they reflect in the glass of a car. In the right conditions, with a well-polished car, they can even reflect in the bodywork. Use the reflections to add interest to your shots. They can focus the viewer’s attention exactly where you want them to look. Also, a well-placed reflection can blank out something messy that you don’t want to distract.

On that note, wear black when you go out with your camera to photograph cars! Too often have I ruined my own photographs by shooting the perfect image and then noticing afterward my own reflection while wearing a bright colored jacket. Wearing black won’t remove you from the image completely, but it will make you an awful lot less distracting when you do manage to capture yourself in a reflective surface.

Next time you head out to a car show to take some pictures, think smaller and capture the details for alternative automotive photography! And share them with us in the comments below.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?

 

alternative-automotive-photography

The post Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice

The post The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

The 10,000-hour rule is often quoted as the magic number of hours that you need to practice in order to master an activity. Now, I’m not saying that after 10,000 hours of practice you’ll definitely have mastered photography. But I do think it’s true that the more you practice, the better you will get!

The secret of practicing to improve your skills is to have a plan. You need to know what you’re practicing, you need to set goals, and you need to find a way to somehow measure your improvement.

Recently, I spent the day practicing with a new lens at Silverstone motor racing circuit. I just wanted to improve my panning to show speed and learn more about my equipment. I was reminded at the time that many photographers can find real joy in just practicing their craft and trying to improve. So with that in mind, here’s my guide on how to make a plan to make your practicing more productive!

Decide what to improve

It sounds obvious, but you need to start with something in mind that you’d like to improve. Wanting to improve your photography is too general. Try and narrow it down more. I wanted to improve my automotive photography and identified that shooting moving objects was a real weak spot in my technique.

Once you’ve narrowed it to something specific you can begin to research. Start here on Digital Photography School. There’s a handy search bar on every page to help you find articles that might be useful. Read those articles and make some notes on things to keep in mind when you’re next shooting. Start building your own instruction manual in your own words to take with you.

Plan your practice

When you’ve decided the things you want to improve, you need to start planning a subject, time, and a place to shoot. This could be as simple as photographing food in your kitchen, or as complicated as a week-long road trip. Put your plans in your diary and make a note of how long you’ve got to prepare. If you get organized, you’ll be far more likely to stick to your plan.

Make sure what you plan is something you find interesting too. Don’t plan for a day of photography (or even a few hours) that you’ll find boring and won’t enjoy. It’ll only put you off photography in the future.

Source the right equipment

If you need a piece of equipment that you don’t currently own, now is the time to decide how you’re going to get it. Hiring lenses can be a cheap way to try new options before buying (but borrowing from friends is even cheaper). Sometimes a piece of new equipment can be just what you need to kickstart your photography, but you need to practice and learn how to use it.

For some pieces of equipment, there are even DIY solutions. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try things out. It doesn’t matter if your shots aren’t perfect; this is an exercise in practicing, not perfection!

Take your notes with you

When you go out shooting to practice, make sure you take your notes with you. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a notebook or on your phone, but make sure you’ve got that research that you did while you were planning.

If you’re trying something new, then you may well have questions as you practice. Even if you’re an old hand at photography, it’s still good to refresh your knowledge before you start taking pictures.

Practice as much as you can, for as long as you can

The costs of film and developing don’t limit you in this digital age. This means you have the opportunity to shoot lots of images when you practice.

Digital storage is cheap, so take a couple of memory cards and keep shooting until you get it right.

Make the most of your time out practicing photography and shoot as much as you can. You never know which image you’ve taken will teach you something new. It could be the first, or it could be the last!

I like to make a day of it when I go out practicing, stubbornly shooting images long past everyone else has left, and my friends have got fed up. It feels like the more I practice, the more I learn, so I try to make the most of the opportunities I get to practice.

Don’t worry about perfection

The aim of practicing isn’t to get images for your portfolio or to take pictures to publish on social media or show your non-photographer friends. The aim is to improve your technique or your creativity.

Check your images as you shoot. The displays on the back of digital cameras are good enough to see if you’re on the right track.

You should be taking the opportunity to try new things and be experimental. Don’t just write off an idea that you’ve had because it won’t work – take the pictures and prove to yourself that it won’t work! You never know what you’ll learn from a failed experiment until you’ve got back home and reviewed the pictures.

Review your shots

Sometimes your practice will be over when you finish shooting. You’ll have learned enough about the technique that you don’t need to review the images.

However, while the experience is fresh in your mind, it’s worth sitting down at a piece of software such as Adobe Lightroom and reviewing the images in conjunction with the EXIF data to try and work out exactly what worked and why (and what didn’t work and why).

The Library module in Adobe Lightroom has the ability to view all the data from your images including shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and focal length. Start pulling up your images one by one, marking the ones that you like, and then reviewing the EXIF data for them.

Make some notes

Ideally, with the research notes that you made before you went shooting, make some notes on how your practice went. Look for patterns in the EXIF data to tell you what was successful and what wasn’t. Write down how you feel about the images, and perhaps make a note for other related techniques that you’d like to work on in the future.

Research how to correct your mistakes

If you consistently made the same mistake over and over while you were practicing, then you’ll want to work out how to fix that for next time.

Read some more articles or even try and find a mentor. Ask questions to your friends who seem to already have the technique nailed (or see if you can go shooting with them for some practice).

Make notes on how to improve for next time using everything you’ve learned so far. If you try and keep it all in your head, then I promise you’ll forget most of it before you get your camera out again!

Plan more practice

Practice makes perfect, after all. And you don’t learn everything on your first attempt.

Using the notes and research that you’ve gathered plan another time to practice. Perhaps this time you’ll work on something related that you’ve identified as a weak spot in your technique. Perhaps you could try the same technique but in a different setting (I’m planning a day out shooting moving wildlife next having now practiced on cars at a racing circuit).

Whatever you plan next, don’t stop practicing. Not even after you’ve reached over ten-thousand hours of practice because there’s always something new to learn.

 

The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice

The post The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images

The post 5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Product photography: you’ve probably heard that it’s hard and very specialist. But your friend who runs their own business asks you if you’ll just shoot a few product pictures for them to use on their website or social media. Or perhaps you have your own business that regularly needs new product photography. Of course, you’re happy to have a go. It could help you improve your photographic skills too by giving you some new challenges. But how do you approach this highly specialist field of photography that you have very little experience with?

When many photographers think of “product photography” they think of a certain style that often involves complicated lighting, setup, and retouching. Sometimes blending dozens of shots in post-processing, using specialized lenses or lighting equipment, or shooting on perfect white backgrounds.

These styles of photography do have their place in the world of marketing and advertising. And you may even decide that it’s the right look for the products that you’re shooting. But in recent years a more natural feeling product photography has been creeping into advertising via social media influences. This style can be easier to dabble with because it requires less equipment and specialist knowledge – although it is still incredibly tricky to master!

The most important thing in product photography is to match the look and feel of the images to the product and the brand. A shot of an exclusive fountain pen aimed at CEO’s will be photographed very differently to a vegan surf-wax aimed at Californian surfers!

Whichever style you decide to try out when you have a go at product photography for the first time, there are some simple things to keep in mind when you’re shooting. If you keep these guidelines in mind, then you should be able to shoot images that show off a product to its advantage.

1. Get your camera on a tripod

It cannot be said often enough in still life photography how great tripods are. Firstly, they protect against camera shake. If you can get your camera (or phone) on a tripod, then your shutter speed can be as long as you like without risking any blur from camera shake. A nice, crisp image is essential to product photography.

If people cannot see what they are purchasing clearly, then they will most likely move on and choose a different supplier!

Blurry pictures are never desirable for product photography. You need to make sure they are clear and crisp.

If you can’t stretch to a tripod then make sure that you use a relatively fast shutter speed to compensate for any slight movements you might make while holding the camera. You may find that you have to compromise and raise your ISO in order to get a clear, bright picture.

The other advantage of tripods is that they hold your camera in one place while you work on your composition. If you are styling your images for social media (rather than shooting flat e-commerce images), then it might take a couple of attempts to get it right.

Keeping the camera in one place leaves you free to work on the styling and composition.

There are a huge variety of tripods available, all with different features and at different price points. If you can stretch to it, then a tripod with an arm that bends over at ninety degrees is an excellent investment that will make the popular flatlay (top-down) shots for Instagram easier.

2. Use good lighting

Let’s bust a myth – good lighting doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Yes, there are certain kinds of product photographers who spend hours or even days lighting a single product and getting it perfect. Of course, many high-volume photographers prefer to work with studio lights in a closed studio. That way, they can replicate lighting time and time again when doing repeat jobs for the same client.

But you can light a product with just natural window light, or even take it outside, and still get great results. You don’t have to have expensive studio gear or even a whole room dedicated to photography. Many people photograph products quite successfully on a table pulled up to a bright window. With the right backgrounds and props, it certainly doesn’t have to look like it was shot in your living room!

Lighting can also help to make your object look three dimensional on a flat screen. Shadows and highlights help viewers to interpret the image and understand it correctly.

The crucial thing is to match the lighting style to the product and brand. For something sleek and high-tech, you might want a more artificial feel to your light. Whereas, a more natural artisan product would probably benefit from just simple window light.

3. Shoot multiple angles

If people are buying online, then they can’t pick up and touch the product. That means you have to try and convey all the small details to a potential purchaser. The best way to do this is by making sure that you capture a variety of angles of each item. Also, get in close to show the details if it’s relevant.

This is especially important if the item is handmade. Getting in close can show off the care and consideration that an artisan puts into their work. The details are what often sets handmade products aside from their mass-manufactured counterparts. So be sure to show them off!

Shooting multiple angles is also an easy way to generate lots more content for social media accounts. Many business owners struggle to find enough content to post regularly on social media, so it can really help them out.

4. Find out the platform specifications

It’s important to shoot product photographs with the final use of the image in mind. Different online platforms will have different specifications for how photographs look best on their sites.

For instance, if you are shooting for someone with an Etsy store, you’d need to consider that portrait photos look best on the product page, but the search thumbnails are landscape. That means a clever photographer would shoot images that look good when cropped to both portrait and landscape. It might mean that you need to leave extra space around products when you shoot them and crop in later in post-processing.

Instagram can be a particularly tough platform to shoot for if people are looking for images that look good on social media. Images should ideally be posted in a ratio of 5:4 to take up as much space as possible and be more eye-catching when scrolling down the feed.

However, on a users profile grid, they automatically crop to a 1:1 square format. That means you lose details in the top and bottom of the image in the thumbnails. On top of that, the “stories” feature uses images that are in a 16:9 ratio – much taller and skinnier than the news feed! When shooting specifically for Instagram, I tend to set my camera to shoot in a 16:9 ratio. Then I know I can almost always crop other ratios out of that base image.

Also, research the pixel size that each online platform uses. If you produce images that are too small, then they’re likely to look pixellated or blurry when uploaded.

5. Don’t forget the packaging

More and more people are shopping online, so the packaging of a product contributes heavily to the first impression of a brand.

Artisan companies and small businesses often spend lots of time considering their packaging and branding. So it’s undoubtedly worthwhile to shoot the packaging as well as the product.

As well as demonstrating brand values, you can also show the buyer that it’s going to help their purchase get to them safely. This is especially important if it’s a product that is breakable or if it’s likely to be given as a gift. It helps instill confidence in the brand!

Plus, on platforms like Etsy that give you multiple slots to upload images of your product, having packaging photographs can be an excellent way to show off the product styled in a new way.

Always remember…

Keep your product photographs well exposed and in focus.

As long as you’re getting these two things correct, then you’re already on the right track. All that’s left to do is practice, practice, practice until you’re shooting products like a pro.

Remember to comment below and show us the pictures you’ve been shooting using what you’ve learned!

 

5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images

The post 5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images

The post Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Many find shooting still life images a real challenge when they’re just starting out because it can be hard to know where to start. But taking the time to shoot a great still life can be a rewarding and somewhat meditative pastime for photographers.

Still life photography can help you hone your photographic skills at your own pace while still creating work that can go in a portfolio or be printed for your wall. But styling tabletop images doesn’t come naturally to all photographers, so here are some simple things to think about when you’re next shooting still life.

Choose props for color and mood

Now might be a good time to go and brush up on your color knowledge, because you’re really going to need it when it comes to creating still life images! Everything, including the colors, in your still life scene, will be there because you put it there. Nothing has to make it onto your tabletop studio if you don’t want to include it in your shot.

Colors can be a way of introducing either harmony or contrast. If you were photographing something blue, for example, and you used blue and green backgrounds you’d have a very harmonious and potentially calm image. On the other hand, if you added yellows or oranges into the scene, it would create tension and result in a more dynamic overall feeling to the shot.

You can bring color to your still life images in different ways. Backgrounds, fabrics, plates, bowls, vases – all these items are props that you can start collecting to build up a color library of props. Don’t forget natural objects like flowers and foliage too; they can often really bring a shot to life.

Selecting complementary backdrops

Your backdrops will often be the most dominant colors in your scene, so pick wisely (it’s also hard to change it once you’ve started arranging your props). Pick your backdrops according to the feel you’d like to create in your final image.

Backdrops can be anything that works with the scene you’re creating. It might be a marble countertop, a beautiful old farmhouse table, or a complementary piece of fabric. Whatever helps to set the mood for your images.

As well as the color of your backdrop, think about the texture as well. A scuffed up, blackened old baking tray creates a very different feel to draped silk. Think about the way that different backdrops make you feel as you select them for your scenes and decide if that’s correct for the kind of story you’re trying to tell in your photograph.

Over time you will build up a library of different backdrops to use in your shots. Then you can create a whole variety of different styles of images just by switching out the backdrop. Keep your eye open when you’re out and about for potential backdrops to add to your library!

Thinking about texture

I love including texture in my still life photographs, and it has become a part of my style now. Scouring both high street and artists shops for interestingly textured table linens, bowls, and backgrounds for my still life images are favorite pastimes.

Along with all the other elements of a still life image, texture can really help set the mood. Are you shooting something rustic that would have its story helped by the introduction of some beautiful coarse fabric? Or maybe you’re photographing a more modern scene that would benefit from glossy backdrops and slick, shiny props?

It also adds interest and depth to your final image. If you look around the room you’re in I’m sure you’ll see a whole variety of different textures. Perhaps you have a smooth leather chair with a velvet cushion on it, placed next to a distressed wood coffee table. Our lives are a riot of different textures, and these affect our senses both visually and through touch.

Since you can’t touch the objects in a photograph, you need to tell the viewer what they’re like. Texture is the main way to visually convey what something would feel like if you reached into the photograph and touched it. With that in mind, pay attention to what the textures in your shot are telling your viewer.

Create a beginning, middle, and end

Just like a good story, a photograph needs a beginning, middle, and end. Except we usually refer to these things as foreground, middle ground, and background when it comes to visual storytelling. Creating a layered effect in your photographs helps to create depth in what is a two-dimensional object.

Try building your still life scenes intentionally. First of all, place your main object roughly where you think you’d like it to be. It helps if you put your camera on a tripod for this because you can keep the framing and focus consistent.

After you’ve placed your main object try creating some foreground interest. This could be some petals if you were photographing flowers, or perhaps the curled corner of table linen if you were shooting food. Anything that leads the eye into the shot without distracting too much from the main focal point is good. You want something that adds to the story.

Lastly, place a background element in your scene. In the shots above, I’ve added a yellow napkin which both creates interests and adds a contrasting color, but you could be more subtle. Your background itself could also be your background element if it were sufficiently interesting! It should be like a “full stop” to your composition; ending the viewer’s attention the same way that a full stop ends a sentence.

You might find it easier to play with compositional colors and shapes for the foreground and background if you use a shallow depth of field. Rendering these elements as out of focus in your scene helps to keep the viewer’s attention on the main focus of your image.

Finishing an image in post-processing

There’s no rule in creative still life photography that says the colors have to be true to life. Using different colors – or even turning your digital files black and white – can result in a change of mood and story.

Processing your still life images in Adobe Lightroom allows you to create duplicates of images and try out different color treatments while comparing them side by side. It’s great for black and white conversions too. The best thing about Adobe Lightroom is that the editing is completely non-destructive to the original file. This means you can try out everything from wild color treatments to something more conservative and always go back to the original file.

I touched on color grading your still life photographs in a previous article. It can help evoke different moods, bringing different colors to the fore. It can also help to make items really pop off the page if you use color grading in a way that emphasizes your main subject.

Color grading your shots can also help to contribute to a more coherent style in your work. You don’t always have to treat the color in your images the same way, but over time you might notice that you seem to pick up a style the more you shoot. This can help to make your work recognizable which you might find desirable.

Put it all Together

Now that you know the simple ways that you can improve your still life images it’s time for you to have a go. Get some inspiration, shoot some images, and then come back and let us see them in the comments!

Don’t be afraid to work slowly and try new things when you’re shooting still life. The objects in your scene are not going anywhere, and they won’t run out of patience as a portrait subject will! Also remember, you don’t have to show anyone the images if you’re not completely happy with them.

 

The post Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

DIY Food Photography Props on a Budget

The post DIY Food Photography Props on a Budget appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

With the rise of Instagram, every meal has become a potential subject for a photographer. We’re sharing our food through photographs like never before, and higher quality imagery gets more likes in the world of #instafood.

But how do you create that styled look to your food photographs when you’re on a budget? Not everyone has the cash to drop on a whole styling kit of tableware, linens, and backgrounds. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ as the proverb says, so let me tell you about a few creative ways I’ve made the money go a little further when it comes to food photography.

Take the suggestions in this article as a starting point and be creative with your own ideas. Bring in skills you’ve already got (or would love to learn) in your quest to DIY your food photography on a budget!

Shop your home

It seems so obvious, but you’d be amazed at what you can find at home (or in the homes of your friends and relatives). The best thing about shopping your home is that everything is free! Take a minute now to take a look around your house and see what you already own that might work for food photography.

The kitchen is the first place to start – but don’t just stop at crockery and flatware! Ancient old baking trays make fabulous backgrounds, and interesting glassware can make great detail in an out-of-focus background.

Don’t neglect the bathroom as you make your shopping trip. More than once I have put food on a (clean) soap dish that happened to be beautiful in color or texture. From the living room, vases can hold a freshly cut flower for a food photography scene. Bedrooms are a treasure trove of trinket dishes, baskets, boxes, and fabrics (more than one evening dress has found its way into my shots as a textile element). Finally, check outside – weathered old plant pots or interesting bits of wood can really bring life to your food stories (once they’ve been scrubbed, of course).

On a similar note to shopping your home, don’t forget to visit your local thrift shops regularly! The staff in my local shops know me so well that they put interesting flatware, linens and ceramics aside for me now. Moreover, each item costs very, very little compared to buying them new.

Creating backgrounds and surfaces with interest

When you’re setting your scene for a styled food photograph, the background can really make or break the shot. You can purchase pre-made background boards designed especially for photographers that replicate various textures. They’re very and good, and I use them often, but they’re also quite expensive! While homemade boards don’t replace textures such as wood or marble they can be very effective for the right shot.

Top: pink stripes created with a child’s foam painting roller.
Bottom: blue, black, and grey emulsion paints applied with a kitchen sponge.

Head along to your local DIY store that sells sheet materials. There you can buy sheets of plywood. If you are lucky, the store will also cut these sheets of plywood into manageable chunks either for free or at a minimal cost.

It works out to be extremely cost-effective to create backgrounds using these boards as a base. A sheet of plywood that is 2.4m by 1.2m costs about £25 here in the UK and that makes eight neat 60cm square boards. You can paint both sides too, so it works out to about £1.50 per background (plus whatever paint you use).

Usually, I use cheap emulsion paint samplers to create backgrounds. Don’t be restricted to brushes for applying the paint either – a sponge is my favorite tool followed closely by children’s painting toys! Go bold with your designs; once you’ve made the background out of focus with a shallow aperture, you won’t see small details. Experiment with color – dark backgrounds can be as interesting as light backgrounds.

Build the set

Once you’ve created some backdrops, put one on a table next to a window and prop the other up behind it vertically like a wall. You now have a table set for a fraction of what it would cost you to buy special backdrops marketed to photographers!

Floor tiles used as backgrounds for food photography.

While you’re at the DIY store buying your plywood, check out the flooring section too. Very often DIY shops will sell sample flooring tiles for people to try at home. For just £1.50 I bought all three of the flooring tiles in the pictures above. The boards are often quite small, but if you’re shooting close-ups, they can still work really well (they’re also good for jewelry photographs).

Customised table linens

Beautiful linens can help to make a food shot pop. They feel luxurious because they’re something you usually only use for special occasions. Plus if you keep your eye out, you can often find linens with unusual textures to the fabric or fancy trim around the edge, and these can help elevate your shots to be something quite special.

Two different colours of linen fabric used for food styling. Consider the mood of your final image when selecting colours.

Table linens are, at their most basic, just a square of interesting (or not-so-interesting) fabric. To create the simplest DIY napkin that really packs a punch, head to a fabric store that sells dressmaking fabrics. Have a look through their linen selection. You’re after something heavy with lots of texture, and you’ll want half a meter of the fabric. Use sharp scissors to cut it into a large square (you should get at least two out of half a meter of fabric) and you’ve created your first designer napkin!

You can either turn the raw edges over and sew them with some matching thread or start pulling the threads away to fray them. Both styles give a different look to your shots as you can see in the shots above. Think about color when you are purchasing fabric; it can really make a difference to the mood of your shots. I’d suggest purchasing neutral colors first and then venturing out into colors when you have some good basics.

Many shops sell a ‘fat quarter’ of fabric (it is a meter of fabric cut horizontally and then vertically to make a rectangle). These cuts are the perfect size for a single oversized napkin. Once you’ve built up a stash of beautiful plain napkins, you can try venturing out into something a little more complicated.

Embellish your DIY props

If you browse the designer homeware stores, you’ll find that table linens often have intricate detailing like trim or hand-stitching on the edges. Back to the fabric shop again, and this time shop for some coordinating trim that matches some fabric you’ve got.

You can sew the trim around the edges of your napkins, or you can take some fabric glue to it. Food styling props for photography don’t have to be perfectly functional; they just have to look good on camera! Make sure you arrange your props so that any mistakes are facing away from your camera!

In the photograph above is white linen. The linen was made with very cheap white cotton fabric with fancy pompom trim stitched around the edge. It cost me around £3 in total. Considerably less than buying the fancy version I’d had my eye on in a shop! Photography is all about illusion. If the trim is particularly expensive just buy enough to go around two edges. You can style it when you shoot so that the other side doesn’t show.

The proof is in the pudding

In any good food photograph, success is measured by how much your viewer wants to eat the subject. I followed my own advice: shopping at my house, creating backdrops, buying fabric and trim, and then I photographed the results.

For under £15, I put together two completely different food photography sets that I can reuse time and time again. Moreover, the bonus is that if I don’t like the backgrounds in the future, I can paint over them time and time again!

Now it’s your turn; have a go at building yourself some props and shooting some food photos. I’d love to see what backgrounds and props you create for your food photography shots. Perhaps you can apply a skill you already know and create something really special that you just can’t buy in the shops.

Please share with us in the comments below.

 

The post DIY Food Photography Props on a Budget appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography?

The post Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

1 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” or GAS for short. Photographers usually consider GAS to be negative; frivolously spending money that you don’t need on equipment that won’t make your photography better. However, I’m here to tell you that sometimes a new piece of kit is exactly what you need to inspire you to do something different with your photography.

White rose in a gold basket. 2 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Getting out of your comfort zone

It’s easy to become complacent with the equipment that you already own. You’ll get to the point where you know it inside out, and you’re completely comfortable using it to create the kind of images that you love. Many photographers have gone for years always using the same system, the same set of lenses, and just upgrading to a new camera body every once in a while to keep pace with new technology.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. Sticking with what you already know produces results that can be a wise use of your limited time and funds. However, sometimes a piece of new gear can push you outside of your comfort zone, forcing you to experiment with new techniques and styles.

A modernist piece of architecture. 3 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

A modernist piece of architecture. © Charlie Moss

New gear for a new style

For me, it was a combination of a new Fujifilm mirrorless camera and a 50mm equivalent lens that forced me into trying new styles. Lugging my dSLR camera around with me always felt like a chore; it was so big and heavy. The Fujifilm X-T20, on the other hand, is small and lightweight. It feels much more like the small Yashica rangefinder that my Grandfather used to bring with him on every family holiday. I found that I would shoot much more spontaneous and joyful images with my new little camera, rather than the “serious” images I shot on my larger dSLR.

But what really changed my photography, and could change yours too, was the investment in a new lens. I didn’t spend a fortune – a secondhand Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 lens found its way into my possession. It is a 50mm equivalent lens (on the Fujifilm X-T20 crop-sensor body), so it’s the classic length for many styles of photography. It’s a great focal length for portraits, street photography, food, and still life. So as soon as it arrived, I began to test it extensively. I should point out that I shot every image in this article with the new lens.

Two images of bright yellow classic cars. One image is of a chrome-trimmd wing mirror, the other is a Humber logo. 4 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Bright yellow classic cars – a chrome-trimmed wing mirror, and a Humber logo. © Charlie Moss

Do you really need new gear?

I get it; not everyone has the money to go out and pick up a new lens or camera just to see if it helps them be more creative. And maybe it wasn’t even the lens or the camera that inspired me to change the way I photograph. Plenty of people manage to change up their style without spending any money at all.

So with that in mind, I have a few suggestions for breaking out of your comfort zone before you break out your credit card.

Two images of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. 5 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. © Charlie Moss

Look at more photography

I don’t just mean on social media. Get out and about in the real world. Take yourself off to an exhibition of photography or an art gallery with a photographic collection. If you live anywhere near a major city, photography exhibitions shouldn’t be too hard to find. Have an open mind about the kind of work you could see. Try to remember that you’re looking for something to inspire a new way of working!

Take a notebook with you too. Make notes in it while you’re walking around the gallery looking at images. Think about how the works of art make you feel or if there’s a particular detail you love. Perhaps there’s a subject you hadn’t thought about photographing before. Or maybe a new use of color that you hadn’t considered for your own work.

Don’t forget to look up the work when you get home too! Many photographers now have a social media presence so that you can keep up to date with their current projects. Historical photographers often have lots written about them on museum and gallery websites for you to read.

Two street images of Oxford, UK. One is at the Botanical Gardens looking through a doorway at a wheelbarrow. The other is a woman walking in front of a science lab. 6 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Two street images of Oxford, UK. Left: Botanical Gardens looking through a doorway at a wheelbarrow. Right: a woman walking in front of a science lab. © Charlie Moss

Try a new genre

Pick something you’ve never done before in photography. Do a bit of research online and then go out and try shooting it. Be brave – what’s the worst that can happen?

For me, it was street photography. I read some tutorials, talked to a few friends, checked out some images on social media and then went out for the day and just had a go. If the images were rubbish, I’d still had a nice day out photographing!

It’s too easy to become very conservative with your approach to photography. Staying with what you know works well is an easy approach, but you might miss out on a new kind of photography that you absolutely adore. Becoming more fearless and trying new things is something that can benefit all photographers – from beginners to professionals! We all need a kickstart every now and again with our work.

Two images. One is a self-portrait with out-of-focus fairy lights. The other is a white and red doorway. 7 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Follow a trend

Of course, we’d all like to be trendsetters rather than followers. But every once in a while it’s good to experiment with something that is clearly capturing the imagination of lots of other photographers!

Instagram is great for checking out what’s fashionable in the world of photography right now. That could be portraits with out-of-focus fairy lights that create bokeh, or beautiful doors and pretty houses. Even if you don’t love the images that you create, each trend will give you the opportunity to experiment with a new technique. You might learn more about the technical aspects of photography, about composition, or even about styling. The key is to take these new things that you’ve learned and use them in your own authentic way.

A photograph of new buildings on Albert Embankment, London. 8 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

A photograph of new buildings on Albert Embankment, London. © Charlie Moss

Whatever you do – do something!

If there’s one thing I’m certain about, it’s that if you never try anything new in your photographic practice, then you’ll come to regret it. So take a leap of faith and try something new.

Start by working out what you’d like to try photographically. See if you can try it without investing in any new gear. However, don’t be afraid to think about if a new piece of gear might bring you a new way of working. A lens, a flashgun, or a new lighting modifier. Perhaps even a new camera.

Also, don’t forget to let us know in the comments what you’re planning on trying out. Or if you’ve changed things up in the past let us know what you did to try and reinvigorate your photography and how well it worked for you!

The post Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography?

The post Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

1 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” or GAS for short. Photographers usually consider GAS to be negative; frivolously spending money that you don’t need on equipment that won’t make your photography better. However, I’m here to tell you that sometimes a new piece of kit is exactly what you need to inspire you to do something different with your photography.

White rose in a gold basket. 2 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Getting out of your comfort zone

It’s easy to become complacent with the equipment that you already own. You’ll get to the point where you know it inside out, and you’re completely comfortable using it to create the kind of images that you love. Many photographers have gone for years always using the same system, the same set of lenses, and just upgrading to a new camera body every once in a while to keep pace with new technology.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. Sticking with what you already know produces results that can be a wise use of your limited time and funds. However, sometimes a piece of new gear can push you outside of your comfort zone, forcing you to experiment with new techniques and styles.

A modernist piece of architecture. 3 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

A modernist piece of architecture. © Charlie Moss

New gear for a new style

For me, it was a combination of a new Fujifilm mirrorless camera and a 50mm equivalent lens that forced me into trying new styles. Lugging my dSLR camera around with me always felt like a chore; it was so big and heavy. The Fujifilm X-T20, on the other hand, is small and lightweight. It feels much more like the small Yashica rangefinder that my Grandfather used to bring with him on every family holiday. I found that I would shoot much more spontaneous and joyful images with my new little camera, rather than the “serious” images I shot on my larger dSLR.

But what really changed my photography, and could change yours too, was the investment in a new lens. I didn’t spend a fortune – a secondhand Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 lens found its way into my possession. It is a 50mm equivalent lens (on the Fujifilm X-T20 crop-sensor body), so it’s the classic length for many styles of photography. It’s a great focal length for portraits, street photography, food, and still life. So as soon as it arrived, I began to test it extensively. I should point out that I shot every image in this article with the new lens.

Two images of bright yellow classic cars. One image is of a chrome-trimmd wing mirror, the other is a Humber logo. 4 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Bright yellow classic cars – a chrome-trimmed wing mirror, and a Humber logo. © Charlie Moss

Do you really need new gear?

I get it; not everyone has the money to go out and pick up a new lens or camera just to see if it helps them be more creative. And maybe it wasn’t even the lens or the camera that inspired me to change the way I photograph. Plenty of people manage to change up their style without spending any money at all.

So with that in mind, I have a few suggestions for breaking out of your comfort zone before you break out your credit card.

Two images of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. 5 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. © Charlie Moss

Look at more photography

I don’t just mean on social media. Get out and about in the real world. Take yourself off to an exhibition of photography or an art gallery with a photographic collection. If you live anywhere near a major city, photography exhibitions shouldn’t be too hard to find. Have an open mind about the kind of work you could see. Try to remember that you’re looking for something to inspire a new way of working!

Take a notebook with you too. Make notes in it while you’re walking around the gallery looking at images. Think about how the works of art make you feel or if there’s a particular detail you love. Perhaps there’s a subject you hadn’t thought about photographing before. Or maybe a new use of color that you hadn’t considered for your own work.

Don’t forget to look up the work when you get home too! Many photographers now have a social media presence so that you can keep up to date with their current projects. Historical photographers often have lots written about them on museum and gallery websites for you to read.

Two street images of Oxford, UK. One is at the Botanical Gardens looking through a doorway at a wheelbarrow. The other is a woman walking in front of a science lab. 6 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Two street images of Oxford, UK. Left: Botanical Gardens looking through a doorway at a wheelbarrow. Right: a woman walking in front of a science lab. © Charlie Moss

Try a new genre

Pick something you’ve never done before in photography. Do a bit of research online and then go out and try shooting it. Be brave – what’s the worst that can happen?

For me, it was street photography. I read some tutorials, talked to a few friends, checked out some images on social media and then went out for the day and just had a go. If the images were rubbish, I’d still had a nice day out photographing!

It’s too easy to become very conservative with your approach to photography. Staying with what you know works well is an easy approach, but you might miss out on a new kind of photography that you absolutely adore. Becoming more fearless and trying new things is something that can benefit all photographers – from beginners to professionals! We all need a kickstart every now and again with our work.

Two images. One is a self-portrait with out-of-focus fairy lights. The other is a white and red doorway. 7 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

Follow a trend

Of course, we’d all like to be trendsetters rather than followers. But every once in a while it’s good to experiment with something that is clearly capturing the imagination of lots of other photographers!

Instagram is great for checking out what’s fashionable in the world of photography right now. That could be portraits with out-of-focus fairy lights that create bokeh, or beautiful doors and pretty houses. Even if you don’t love the images that you create, each trend will give you the opportunity to experiment with a new technique. You might learn more about the technical aspects of photography, about composition, or even about styling. The key is to take these new things that you’ve learned and use them in your own authentic way.

A photograph of new buildings on Albert Embankment, London. 8 - Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography - Charlie Moss

A photograph of new buildings on Albert Embankment, London. © Charlie Moss

Whatever you do – do something!

If there’s one thing I’m certain about, it’s that if you never try anything new in your photographic practice, then you’ll come to regret it. So take a leap of faith and try something new.

Start by working out what you’d like to try photographically. See if you can try it without investing in any new gear. However, don’t be afraid to think about if a new piece of gear might bring you a new way of working. A lens, a flashgun, or a new lighting modifier. Perhaps even a new camera.

Also, don’t forget to let us know in the comments what you’re planning on trying out. Or if you’ve changed things up in the past let us know what you did to try and reinvigorate your photography and how well it worked for you!

The post Can New Gear Kickstart Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

There’s been an explosion of interest in photographing costume portraits over the last few years. From movie cosplays to historically-inspired portraits – there’s no end to the kind of costumes that could make their way into your portrait portfolio.

Shooting someone who is playing a role can bring a whole new dimension to your images. It can add depth and vibrancy to your portfolio. People often lose their inhibitions about being in front of the camera if they are pretending to be someone else!

With that in mind, here are my top five tips for creating portfolio-worthy costume portraits.

1 - 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits - charlie moss

1. Be inspired by history

Fabulous costume portraits have been created throughout history, both in photography and in other kinds of art. Julia Margaret Cameron, for example, was a British photographer born in 1815 who used to shoot people dressed up as characters from Shakespeare. Her contemporary, David Wilkie Wynfield, would photograph his friends wearing fancy dress in the style of the great 16th-Century Venetian artist, Titian.

And don’t just stop at taking inspiration from photographer either – there are thousands of years of portraits to take inspiration from. In the portrait above, I took inspiration from a painting called La belle ferronnière by Leonardo da Vinci. Other times I’ve been inspired by different historical artists – Rembrandt lighting is a popular technique amongst photographers too and a great place to start!

Never be afraid to try self-portraiture when you’re experimenting with different lighting and looks inspired by historical portraits. It can take a bit of practice to get it right, and you will almost certainly be your most patient model! The shot above is the result of an hour locked in my studio experimenting with light and self-portraiture. I cannot recommend the Fujifilm camera system and app highly enough for shooting self portraits. You can focus and shoot at the touch of your phone screen!

Costume portraits are a great excuse to step away from the kind of lighting that you would usually use and try something different. If you always use studio lights then how about trying some available light? That’s how artists would have mostly worked in the past, and if it worked for them then it must be worth trying! Equally, if you usually work with available light then perhaps this is an excellent opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and try something tight and controlled with studio lights?

2 - 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits - charlie moss

2. Check the costume faithfulness

I’m not suggesting for one moment that you should become a victim to historical or film accuracy in your costume portraits. But it does pay to just think through all of the elements that your subject is wearing or surrounded by.

In a costume portrait, even more so than a regular portrait, every aspect of the costume and any props contribute to the story being told by the final image. Ideally, nothing should appear in the final image that wasn’t intentionally put there to be a part of the story.

So if you are shooting a portrait inspired by a period of history, or perhaps inspired by a film or comic book, just take a little time to research your inspiration before scheduling a shoot. Check that your costume, accessories, and props aren’t going to be jarring to the story you are trying to tell.

This is where it might be worthwhile working with costume designers if you are new to styling costume portraits. Their expertise and advice on putting together and styling different kinds of costumes could save you an awful lot of time and heartache in the long run! Of course, there are always opportunities to hire costumes from theatres too – it can be a surprisingly cost-effective option.

3 - 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits - charlie moss

3. Set the scene

Think about the scene that you want your character to inhabit. Are they royalty sitting atop a beautiful throne, or are they a post-apocalyptic warrior tracking danger through the forest? Scouting out a location and sourcing props to suit can be half of the fun when it comes to staging a costume portrait!

You can find great locations in the most surprising places. I have shot in front of huge roller shutter doors on industrial estates, in a scrubby bit of forest that looked like a dreamy estate in the final images, and against an old stone wall in my back garden. With the right lighting, lens selection, framing choices, and post-processing the most unexpected locations can look great in portraits.

But, of course, there’s always the option to head into the studio! Taking a subject into the studio and placing them against a plain backdrop can serve to really highlight the story you are telling through their costume and appearance. It puts the focus squarely onto the subject. This style of studio shooting can be a double-edged sword. There’s less room for mistakes in this kind of controlled studio portrait, but the payoff can be more than worth it when it comes to portfolio-worthy images.

4 - 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits - charlie moss

4. Give your subject a character

When people usually sit for portraits they are playing themselves. So when you have someone sit for a costume portrait, it is helpful if you can have them play a role. It can help them to get into character more quickly and easily.

Before you do the shoot – while you’re pulling together your styling and location – think about the character that you’re looking to capture and write down a few thoughts as part of a shoot plan.

Are they a brooding young Victorian poet who lost their love? Perhaps they’re an underground rebel trying to uncover a government conspiracy four decades in the future? This is the driving force behind the entire shoot, so gear everything towards bringing this character to life.

Once you have your subject dressed up and with makeup done, equipped with props, and in the location you have chosen, all these elements should come together to help them portray the character. It’s their portrayal of the character that will shine through, tell the story, and truly make your shots portfolio-worthy.

5 - 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits - charlie moss

5. Don’t forget the post-processing

You’ve styled an amazing shoot in a fantastically atmospheric location with a great team, and you’ve collaboratively told a compelling story. So what is next? Post-processing – that’s what.

The choices you make on the computer or in the darkroom after the shoot really help you focus the storytelling. Good post-processing can help elevate a portrait to something extraordinary.

You can make stylistic choices in post-processing that you may not otherwise make if you were shooting regular headshots or family portraits. For instance, when I shoot images with an apocalyptic theme, I tend to add lots of layers over the top to create a grungy look to the piece. If I am shooting something inspired by a sci-fi movie, then I often choose to push the colors quite hard to resemble the film grading used by cinematographers. Moreover, if I shoot something medieval- or viking-ish, I usually dull all the colors down and make the finished shots look “dusty” and worn.

With practice, you’ll find your style for post-processing costume portraits. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and do something different from your usual approach. Everything about these images is already completely different from how most people would approach a regular portrait. It’s a chance to experiment!

6 - 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits - charlie moss

Now that you’re armed with my top tips for shooting costume portraits, it’s time to try it out yourself! Remember to create a character, set the scene, and think about every element that you’re placing in the image. That way, you’ll tell a compelling and consistent story that shines through in the final image.

I’d love to see your attempts at shooting costume portraits. Post an image in the comments for everyone to see!

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

1 2