Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting

The post Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Flash can be a confusing addition for many new photographers. But there’s really only one way to gain experience. Learning to use your flash well takes practice.

Using your flash without modifying its output often produces unsatisfactory results. These can be very discouraging. With little modification, you can achieve more acceptable results pretty easily. Controlling the output of your flash based on the style of light you want for your photos is not hard to do.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Northern Thai Sausage

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Your unmodified flash is a small light source

The smaller your light source is in relation to your subject, the harder the light will be. An unmodified flash produces strong light and high contrast for most subjects. This creates a hard-edged shadow which is often undesirable. The only difference is with macro photography because the light source will be larger than the subject.

Modifying the output of your flash by using a diffuser softens the light which falls on your subject.

Using a diffuser does a couple of things. It subdues the output, so less light hits your subject. It also spreads the light, effectively making the active light source larger. The light falling on your subject will be softer. So will the shadows they create.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Young Woman in the Park

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The benefits of using modified flash

Diffusing the light from your flash will produce more flattering results when taking portraits. Soft light falling on the skin reduces the appearance of texture and gives it a more even tone. There are a number of techniques and accessories you can employ to diffuse the light from your flash. I will discuss some of these in the next section.

Hard light from an unmodified flash is more likely to show up skin blemishes. It also produces unsightly hot spots.

These bright patches occur with all but the most light absorbent surfaces when using an undiffused light. The more reflective the surface, the more light from a small light source will reflect.

Using some method of scattering the light from your flash will help end these problems.

Another option to modify your flash is to do the opposite of spreading the light. Narrowing the dispersion of the light produces a completely different look. You can better control what area of your composition the light from your flash will affect. This is usually achieved by the use of a snoot or honeycomb grid.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Rabbit Time Costume

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How to control your flash using modifiers

The most simple way to alter the light from your flash is to turn your flash head so it’s not pointing where your lens is focused. Indoors you can point it up to the ceiling. The light will reflect off the ceiling and scatter. You can alternatively point your flash towards a wall beside or behind you.

Ceilings are often white or light neutral colors, so your photo is not likely to be affected by an odd toning. Bouncing your flash off a colored wall or other surfaces can cause that color to affect the light.

Depending on how close your flash is to the surface you’re bouncing it off will determine how much it is diffused. The closer you are to the surface, the less diffusion there will be.

When you turn your flash head to bounce it off another surface, the light and shadows it creates will be softer. Shadows may still be evident. You need to be careful of shadows under people’s chins and around their eyes when you bounce your flash off a ceiling.

Using a piece of whiteboard, plastic or a fold-out reflector to bounce your flash off will give you more control. You can move your reflector further away or closer and determine the best position for it.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Young Woman in Red

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Clip-on hard diffuser

Most flash units come with a clip-on hard plastic diffuser. This is a small attachment that fits over the front of the flash head. It scatters and softens the light when the flash is fired.

Because this attachment is small, about the same size as your flash lens, it will not do a lot to soften the light. It is often better than nothing if you have not other option and it is small and convenient.

ways-to-modify-your-flash-for-more-controlled-lighting-Clip-on-Diffuser

Flash with a clip-on diffuser © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Bounce cards and other compact modifiers

A white piece of cardboard about 20cm (8 in) square with a tab on one edge and a couple of good strong elastic bands. This was a standard kit for photographers when I worked in newspapers. It was back before the proliferation of flash modifiers were available to buy.

Adding a bounce card to a flash pointed at a ceiling or wall spreads and softens the light even more. This will help further reduce the strength of the shadows.

Nowadays there are so many types of bounce cards and other diffusers available. They’re all designed to modify your flash in slightly different ways. Kits of modifiers can include:

ways-to-modify-your-flash-for-more-controlled-lighting-Bounce-Card

Flash with a bounce card © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Snoots and grids

Most accessories which modify flash output are designed to soften the light. Snoots and honeycomb grids are two pieces of kit which can help you control the direction of the light.

Each works to narrow the spread of light from your flash. This allows you to control which part of your composition is most affected.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Snoot Lighting

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Gobos and colored gels

Two more accessories which modify flash output are gobos and gels.

A gobo is a stencil or template placed in front of your flash head to create a shadow of a shape or pattern.

Any color gel can be used to affect the color of light which emits from your flash. This can be used for creative effect or to balance your flash with the ambient light.

Electric light sources often emit a colored light that is not as white as the light from your flash. Tungsten light is a warm tone. Fluorescent is often quite cool. Using the correct color gel can produce the right color to balance with an existing light source.

Small flash softbox

ways-to-modify-your-flash-for-more-controlled-lighting

Small Softbox © Kevin Landwer-Johan

My favorite flash modifier is a small softbox. It’s not the smallest or most convenient, but it produces a soft, pleasant light.

Mine’s about 60cm (2 ft) square and has a bracket to mount the flash at the back. The biggest drawback in using it is that you need to place it on a stand or have someone hold it for you.

I find I like the results best when using it as a fill light.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Temple Tourist Sunset

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Controlling the amount of light

Whichever method you use to you modify the light from your flash there will always be a reduced output. You must compensate for this.

Using the TTL setting your camera and flash should calculate the correct amount of light. This should also be true with the auto settings.

In some circumstances, you may notice not enough light from your flash is illuminating your subject. At these times, you must adjust your compensation. This can be done by opening your aperture more or increasing your ISO.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting Rag Doll Girl

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Unmodified flash is not often the best light source. Modification allows you to control its output to suit the style of photograph you are making.

Experimentation and practice are required to master the type of lighting you want.

A practical exercise to help you understand and see what you can achieve is worth spending some time with. Set up a still life composition or find a willing model to work with. In the same setting, take a series of photos using various modifiers so you can compare the way the light looks with each one.

 

ways-to-modify-your-flash-for-more-controlled-lighting

The post Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos

The post Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Street photographers often love the type of light many others seek to avoid. High contrast lighting is favored by many because of the drama it adds to the action, or lack of it, in the streets.

Making the most of high contrast lighting is a matter of being able to see it more as your camera does. It also helps to have a good knowledge of how you can manipulate your photos during post-processing.

Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos Young Market Vendor

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Seeing like your camera

Your eyes can see a wider range of tone than your camera can. This is changing as camera technology advances. Soon cameras will be able to record more details in the highlights and shadows over a broader range. For now, your eyes are more capable.

What you see on your camera’s monitor when you review a photo is different than what you’ll see on your computer. On your camera, you will not see so much depth or detail. Learning to discern what your photos will look like after some post-processing will help you take better photos.

cycling

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taking photos knowing how you will process them later helps you make better decisions while you’re taking photos. The choices you make about exposure and composition can depend on what treatment you will give a RAW image on your computer.

When you look at a high contrast scene, your eyes will see more detail than your camera is able to record. Because the difference between the light value of the highlights and shadows is so vast, your camera cannot record it all. But your eyes will still be able to see it.

Understanding this when you are in high contrast light will help you make better photos.

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos- Cycle Shadows

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Expose with intent

Photographing in hard light means you must make careful exposure choices. Do you want to see details in the highlights? Do you want to see details in the shadow areas? You must choose if you want to make the most of the dramatic lighting.

Exposing for the highlights and letting the shadows fall into black is one of the most popular methods. This adds drama and mystery to your street photos.

I prefer to set my exposure manually. This way I know it will not alter until I change the settings myself. I will choose a light area to make a meter reading from. Then I will underexpose it a little to make the effect a little more dramatic.

This will make the shadow areas appear even darker. It also means I am less likely to have bright areas with no detail.

Drummer Boy

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Setting my exposure in this way, I know I’ll be able to push the contrast effect even further during post-production.

If you set your camera to expose for the shadows, the highlight areas will be even brighter. You will lose detail in the lightest parts of your composition. Sometimes you will want this and to keep the details in the shadows. You must make a conscious choice when you are setting your exposure. If you get this wrong, you will find you cannot manipulate your photos so much during post-processing. This is more so if you are taking .jpegs rather than RAWs.

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos Happy Man with contrast

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Make use of the shadows

You can hide things in the shadows. You can conceal people or unwanted distracting elements in the darkness of a shadow.

Careful use of shadows can isolate your main subject and draw the viewer’s eye to it.

Use graphic lines of shadows created by architecture, trees or other strong forms. The shadows themselves become graphic elements in your photographs. You can combine them with the solid forms in your composition to create tension or harmony.

Wood Carving in the Shadows

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Look for how static and moving shadows appear in your compositions. What do the shadows of people look like on the pavements or walls as they walk by? Are there shadows created by trucks, buses or cars passing by? Can you see light reflected off windows back into the shadows?

While you’re out with your camera, think about how the shadows might look when you add more contrast during post-processing.

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Find a location and choose your time

Observe how the daylight looks at the places you like to photograph. It will be different at various times of the day and during different seasons.

Look at how the shadows fall on the ground and surrounding buildings. Are people walking in the sunshine or in the shade? At which points to they emerge from the shadows? Is the light in front of them or behind?

Pick a good place to work from and stay awhile. If you can visit the same location on many different occasions, you’ll build up a more diverse set of photographs. Doing this, you’ll be able to compare the photos you take. This can help you learn your favorite time to photograph at that place. Then plan to do it again and take even better photos.

Find a place where the light is how you like it and the background is interesting. Make sure the background will support the style of photograph you are wanting to take. Is the background in full sun or in the shadows? Is the light falling on it pleasing to you?

Egg Man black and white

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Move around and look at the space from different angles. Where you photograph from will look different depending on where the sun is. You might prefer the sun behind you or to one side. Some scenes may look better when your subjects are backlit. These should be carefully made and not left to chance.

If you are including people or traffic in your photos, be observant of how it is moving. Anticipate where it looks best. How does the light look on a person as they walk through your composition? Does the traffic moving in one direction look more interesting than traffic moving the other way?

Once you have decided on a place to work from, stay there. Being patient is one of the most important things to do as a photographer. Wait and watch. Look for patterns of movement and also when these patterns are interrupted or broken. These can be some of the most interesting times to take street photographs.

Fancy Kaftan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Look at the sunlight and think about how you can post-process to enhance the look you want.

With street photography, you are reliant on the available light. You must look at it and figure out the best place to stand. Then you must make the right choice of exposure settings to take advantage of the high contrast.

Once you have found a good location and made a few exposures hang around. Give yourself time and space to really work a scene. Try going back to the same location at different times of the day and in different seasons. You may be surprised at how different your photographs will look.

We’d love it if you would go out and try some of these techniques and share your photos with us in the comments below.

 

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos

The post Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos

The post Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Street photographers often love the type of light many others seek to avoid. High contrast lighting is favored by many because of the drama it adds to the action, or lack of it, in the streets.

Making the most of high contrast lighting is a matter of being able to see it more as your camera does. It also helps to have a good knowledge of how you can manipulate your photos during post-processing.

Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos Young Market Vendor

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Seeing like your camera

Your eyes can see a wider range of tone than your camera can. This is changing as camera technology advances. Soon cameras will be able to record more details in the highlights and shadows over a broader range. For now, your eyes are more capable.

What you see on your camera’s monitor when you review a photo is different than what you’ll see on your computer. On your camera, you will not see so much depth or detail. Learning to discern what your photos will look like after some post-processing will help you take better photos.

cycling

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taking photos knowing how you will process them later helps you make better decisions while you’re taking photos. The choices you make about exposure and composition can depend on what treatment you will give a RAW image on your computer.

When you look at a high contrast scene, your eyes will see more detail than your camera is able to record. Because the difference between the light value of the highlights and shadows is so vast, your camera cannot record it all. But your eyes will still be able to see it.

Understanding this when you are in high contrast light will help you make better photos.

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos- Cycle Shadows

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Expose with intent

Photographing in hard light means you must make careful exposure choices. Do you want to see details in the highlights? Do you want to see details in the shadow areas? You must choose if you want to make the most of the dramatic lighting.

Exposing for the highlights and letting the shadows fall into black is one of the most popular methods. This adds drama and mystery to your street photos.

I prefer to set my exposure manually. This way I know it will not alter until I change the settings myself. I will choose a light area to make a meter reading from. Then I will underexpose it a little to make the effect a little more dramatic.

This will make the shadow areas appear even darker. It also means I am less likely to have bright areas with no detail.

Drummer Boy

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Setting my exposure in this way, I know I’ll be able to push the contrast effect even further during post-production.

If you set your camera to expose for the shadows, the highlight areas will be even brighter. You will lose detail in the lightest parts of your composition. Sometimes you will want this and to keep the details in the shadows. You must make a conscious choice when you are setting your exposure. If you get this wrong, you will find you cannot manipulate your photos so much during post-processing. This is more so if you are taking .jpegs rather than RAWs.

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos Happy Man with contrast

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Make use of the shadows

You can hide things in the shadows. You can conceal people or unwanted distracting elements in the darkness of a shadow.

Careful use of shadows can isolate your main subject and draw the viewer’s eye to it.

Use graphic lines of shadows created by architecture, trees or other strong forms. The shadows themselves become graphic elements in your photographs. You can combine them with the solid forms in your composition to create tension or harmony.

Wood Carving in the Shadows

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Look for how static and moving shadows appear in your compositions. What do the shadows of people look like on the pavements or walls as they walk by? Are there shadows created by trucks, buses or cars passing by? Can you see light reflected off windows back into the shadows?

While you’re out with your camera, think about how the shadows might look when you add more contrast during post-processing.

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Find a location and choose your time

Observe how the daylight looks at the places you like to photograph. It will be different at various times of the day and during different seasons.

Look at how the shadows fall on the ground and surrounding buildings. Are people walking in the sunshine or in the shade? At which points to they emerge from the shadows? Is the light in front of them or behind?

Pick a good place to work from and stay awhile. If you can visit the same location on many different occasions, you’ll build up a more diverse set of photographs. Doing this, you’ll be able to compare the photos you take. This can help you learn your favorite time to photograph at that place. Then plan to do it again and take even better photos.

Find a place where the light is how you like it and the background is interesting. Make sure the background will support the style of photograph you are wanting to take. Is the background in full sun or in the shadows? Is the light falling on it pleasing to you?

Egg Man black and white

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Move around and look at the space from different angles. Where you photograph from will look different depending on where the sun is. You might prefer the sun behind you or to one side. Some scenes may look better when your subjects are backlit. These should be carefully made and not left to chance.

If you are including people or traffic in your photos, be observant of how it is moving. Anticipate where it looks best. How does the light look on a person as they walk through your composition? Does the traffic moving in one direction look more interesting than traffic moving the other way?

Once you have decided on a place to work from, stay there. Being patient is one of the most important things to do as a photographer. Wait and watch. Look for patterns of movement and also when these patterns are interrupted or broken. These can be some of the most interesting times to take street photographs.

Fancy Kaftan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Look at the sunlight and think about how you can post-process to enhance the look you want.

With street photography, you are reliant on the available light. You must look at it and figure out the best place to stand. Then you must make the right choice of exposure settings to take advantage of the high contrast.

Once you have found a good location and made a few exposures hang around. Give yourself time and space to really work a scene. Try going back to the same location at different times of the day and in different seasons. You may be surprised at how different your photographs will look.

We’d love it if you would go out and try some of these techniques and share your photos with us in the comments below.

 

high-contrast-lighting-for-dramatic-street-photos

The post Make the Most of High Contrast Lighting for Dramatic Street Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

The Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for the Shy Photographer

The post The Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for the Shy Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Avoiding photographing people

My dad had a lovely Zeiss camera. The kind with bellows that folded up into a compact unit. It took 120 roll film. I used this camera to photograph my brother’s band, playing an outdoor gig when I was 17. These 12 exposures filled my first roll of film.

Photography became my passion. Having a camera in my hand excited me and taught me to view the world around me in new ways. I would visualize and compose photos in my imagination even when I didn’t have my camera with me.

I photographed old rusty things, beaches, skies, mountains, and flowers, among other subjects – but never people.

rusty wheel DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Cira. 1983 Scanned from slide film © Kevin Landwer-Johan

People were well outside of my comfort zone – especially strangers.

Dealing with that uncomfortable feeling

“I don’t want to impose on others.”

This is the most common reason I hear from photographers about why they don’t photograph people.

Overcoming the fear of imposing, and settling the butterflies in your stomach is possible. Focused effort is required, but the results are well worth it.

The purpose of this Ultimate Guide is to teach you practical methods for photographing people, no matter how shy you are.

Photography is so much more than choosing the best lens and camera settings. Connecting with your subject is vital, particularly when you’re photographing people. If this is challenging for you, digging deep is essential – deep into your feelings of fear that invade your mind when you want to make a portrait.

Concentrate on the positive. Focus in on what’s attracted you. Why do you want to make that person’s portrait? Before you even approach someone or put your camera to your eye, clear your mind of doubt. Settle your thoughts and have a positive attitude towards what you are doing. Training your mind to think like this you will in time be able to control the feelings of self-doubt and fear of imposing.

Learn to recognize your negative thoughts that disrupt your intentions. Jump on them fast. The more consistently you can do this, the more successful you will be.

Only entertain your positive thoughts. As you do, your actions become automatic and relaxed. You will find it’s not stressful to approach people and to photograph them.

The more you do anything, the easier it becomes.

Practice training your mind to replace the fear of imposing with positive thoughts. Think about having a pleasant interaction with your subject. Reinforce your initial ideas of why you’ve chosen to photograph them. Let your mind fill with the intent to succeed.

Make yourself concentrate on the photo you are planning to make. Zone in on your composition, lighting, exposure, and timing. When you do this, the rest of the world disappears for a while. Be in your own creative space in your head and heart, and nothing else will matter.

This may sound a little abstract and not what you’re used to reading in a photography article, but I assure you, as you focus your mind and practice these techniques, you will become a better photographer.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Woman Meditating on a red sofa

Focus your mind. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Start with your camera

Knowing how to use your camera with confidence is your first step. If you’re not comfortable using your camera you’re not likely to enjoy photographing people.

Use your camera every day. Make a habit of taking at least one or two photos a day. You’ll find it’s addictive in the very best ways. Having a creative release is good for your soul. Your creative imagination will develop as you use it. The more you practice, the more your artistic style will begin to emerge.

Frequent contact is key. Have your camera in your hands at least once a day. You will become intimate with it. Your fingers and thumbs will feel the shapes of the dials and buttons. You will develop your subconscious memory of where each control is. As you learned fast enough where the on/off switch is, you’ll be able to find all the essential camera controls before long.

Pick a time each day to use your camera. I am sure if you think about it you will fit in ten or twenty minutes to be creative. Perhaps when you commute to work or school, during your lunch break or before dinner. Making it the same time each day helps you to form this good habit. Routine, especially at first, is helpful. I know if you work at this, by the end of the first month you will have a good foundation to build on. You will have developed a positive new habit. Moreover, you will see the quality of your photography improve.

The subject matter is not as relevant at first. Don’t even think about photographing people. Your goal in taking photos every day is to learn to love your camera and use it with confidence.

Experiment. Imagine. Express what you see. This will become a natural time of learning and growth. Sometimes you may feel frustrated at not being able to create the image that’s in your head. This is the time to learn more about controlling your camera so you can make it do what you want it to. Use various lens focal lengths. Choose different angles and composition techniques.

Combining some photography study often will result in more rapid growth. There are so many books, magazines, websites, and courses you can learn from. Find a way of learning that you’re comfortable with and set to study a little and often.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Asian woman photographer

Experiment. Imagine. Express what you see. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Now focus on your subject

Building proficiency using your camera will often prepare you to photograph people. You need to be comfortable and confident you have the settings right.

Concentrating on your camera more than your subject is a common mistake. It’s easy to be distracted by your camera, especially for shy people. Not engaging with someone when you want to make their portrait leads to a disconnect. This is often noticeable in the resulting portrait.

You don’t want to leave the person looking at the top of your head as you peer down at your camera as you make adjustments.

Set your camera as much as possible before you engage with your subject. Then you will be giving them your attention without distraction. Don’t make your camera an excuse not to communicate. It’s not there to shield you from the world. Use it as a bridge to help you connect with your subjects.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Asian woman photographer

Be comfortable and confident. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How to overcome your insecurities

“One of the easiest ways to overcome shyness is to become a photographer.” – David Hurn, photographer

Years ago, I heard an interview with a photographer saying they thought shy people make the best portrait photographers. This was because the resulting photo will be more about the subject than about the photographer. As a shy person who liked photography, this interested me. It challenged me.

British photographer, David Hurn, talks about being shy in this interview with Huck magazine.

“I’m incredibly shy. Photography is the best thing for shy people because you have something to hide behind. The problem with shy people is that you don’t want to be rejected. So your safeguard is that you go into yourself. But with a camera, you have an excuse to be somewhere. So when you’re walking down the street and looking in a doorway at a whole load of people, being tattooed or something, with a camera, you can walk in and suddenly say, ‘Do you mind if I shoot some pictures?’ And if you show a genuine interest in what people are doing, I have never known anyone to say no. People love you being interested in them. The camera gives you that excuse to be there. It breaks through that barrier.”

https://www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/david-hurn-magnum-advice/

Why do you think David Hurn never had anyone say no to him? I believe it’s because of his approach. He has determination and a gentle manner.

He knows what he wants to achieve and the photos he wants to capture. Concentrating on his goal, he uses the camera as his reason to step into people’s situations, and into their lives. He is sure about what he wants, and he works with focused confidence to do it.

Having purpose will push you further, faster, in anything you want to achieve in life. It is no different for photography. If you have a well-defined purpose for what you want to accomplish, it can become a reality. If you drift about without direction, it takes a long time to achieve anything.

Photographer and Model DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Photography is the best thing for shy people. © Pansa Landwer-Johan

Take your time

Taking your time is not a bad thing. If you’re worried you will miss the photo, it means you haven’t started your preparation soon enough. Every genre of photography requires patience and anticipation. The better you know your camera, the faster you’ll have it set and ready in any circumstance. Take time to learn manual mode. This will not only give you more control of your exposures, but it will also help you see life at a different pace.

It is true that automatic settings on your camera can help you take photos faster. You may be able to capture the action, but not the mood. Slow down and take notice of more than your camera settings. This is how you will learn to capture atmosphere.

Don’t think you always have to be fast with your camera. Doing so can be a distraction from truly experiencing photography.

Some of the best street photography appears to have happened in a snap, but this is rarely so. Planning and preparation. Choice of light and location. Waiting. These qualities factor into more great street photos than sheer speed. Those fleeting moments when all the elements align in the viewfinder are anticipated.

Fishermen on a bridge DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Take your time. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Your camera will help overcome your reluctance

Your camera is your bridge to the other side of shyness. It allows you to traverse the distance between your intention to photograph someone and the actual portrait. It not only makes the picture, but it connects you with your subject.

Speaking to a stranger for no particular reason is very difficult for many people. Having a camera in your hands is a wonderful reason to speak with someone. Your camera is the solution to your problem of not wanting to approach people. When you come to realize this and learn to use your camera as a bridge, you will cross over into a whole new world of wonderful, creative experience.

Photographing people when your mind is focused on them, and not on your camera, transforms the experience.

My camera gets me to the other side, away from my insecure thoughts and into a conversation with the person. It is a reason for me to be where I am and to start conversations.

Use your camera as a means to introduce yourself and begin an interesting discussion. Don’t hide behind your camera fiddling with its controls. Be prepared and bold with it. Your camera will fulfill your purpose.

Express your intention to take a photograph with an appropriate amount of confidence. Doing this will open the way for you. Focus on your subject and their response to you.

When you approach someone in a self-assured way, it will be evident. If you appear to be unsure of yourself, your subject will often reflect this behavior back to you.

Self-assured communication with your subjects is important. It is as necessary as being confident with the technical aspects of photography.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers street market photographer interacting with a vendor

Your camera is your bridge to the other side of shyness. © Pansa Landwer-Johan

Choose who you want to photograph based on how receptive they will be

Stepping into the street to photograph strangers for the first time is a daunting prospect.  It is not something many people find particularly easy. Don’t start there. Begin photographing someone you know and who appreciates what you are doing.

Friends or family members can be your best option. Someone you know and who enjoys having their photograph taken. People who like seeing their image are always the easiest to make portraits of. They are relaxed in front of the camera and are more likely to give you expressive feedback on your photos.

Finding someone you can photograph on a number of different occasions will help you learn. You will connect with them more each time you meet for a photo session. As you grow in confidence using your camera, you will find it becomes more natural to connect with people.

Take your camera to social gatherings – birthdays and other celebrations. Weddings, graduations, parties, church barbecues or the pub. Whatever social activities you engage in. Over time, you will begin to get more of a feel for the people who are easy to photograph.

Take your time. Make a start. Remain determined and practice as often as you can. Repetition will build your camera and your communication skills.

As you practice, be aware of how you are connecting, and the types of response people give you. Learn to read and understand the social dynamic having your camera in hand creates. Naturally, people will respond to you differently than if you are only having a conversation. Developing your perception of people’s reactions to your camera will help you when you come to photograph strangers.

Kevin Landwer-Johan Showing Akha people their photos DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Repetition will build your camera and your communication skills. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Communicate well

Communicating your desire to photograph someone in an apt manner is imperative. This is a point of failure for many people. I cringe when I hear photographers speak inappropriately to the people they are photographing. Your portrait depends so much on the relationship you have with your subject. Even if that relationship only lasts a minute or two.

Being pleasant is vital to becoming a good people photographer – particularly if you want to become a wedding and portrait photographer. The way you communicate, your manner, and even your body language are important. Your clients notice these things. If they are comfortable with you, they respond well. Their body language and facial expressions will reflect this back to you.

Your manner of communication depends on your state of mind. When you are worried about camera settings and the lighting, you are not so likely to communicate best. Put the technical thoughts aside before you start to engage with the people you want to photograph.

People love it when you show an interest in who they are and what they love to do. Genuine curiosity is natural in photographers, and you are best to develop this as much as you can. Make this aspect of your shyness work for you. Being keen, but yet a little reserved will endear you to people much more than being too bold will.

Photographer and Model in the Studio DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Show an interest in who people are. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Develop your camera skills with a project

Once you commit to a photography project, you have a theme or concept to work on. Sticking to your chosen topic and building a body of photographs allows you to track your development. Choosing to photograph a people project helps you build your confidence too.

Working on a long term project, you will experiment more with your camera and photography techniques. Push the boundaries and explore camera settings you don’t often use. This will allow you to produce a more diverse and interesting series of photographs.

As you build up a collection of images, you’ll be able to review and compare them. This will identify the skills you need to work on. It will also encourage you to see the areas where you are improving.

Over time, you will build up a significant collection of photos, both good and bad. Mostly bad. Don’t beat yourself up about this. It happens to every photographer. The more bad photos you take, the more good ones you will also create. Scrutinizing your photos over an extended period allows you to chart your progress.

Keep everything. Do not delete images in camera. The key is being organized. If you dump them all in a folder on your computer, this will not help. You’ll not be able to discern the nature of your progress.

Each time you work on your project, load the photos onto your computer and separate the top 10%-20% of the photos – the ones you are most happy with. Then separate into another folder, the ones you recognize as having potential and that you’d like to work on. Making notes for yourself during this process will help keep you on track and make it more beneficial.

Reviewing and comparing your photos like this can be challenging. You need to acknowledge the areas of weakness. Your photos will show you this. Having a more experienced photographer, someone who can mentor you through this process will be a huge advantage. They will be able to point out to you aspects of your work you may not be able to see so clearly.

Woman at the market with motion blur behind her DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Develop Your Camera Skills with a Project. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Develop your relational skills

As you spend time with the same people, the relationship develops. Committing to a photography project involving the same people, you will build a closer relationship. This is true if you are photographing a family member or people at your local market.

Building relationships takes time. With a photography project, you will have to make time for it to be effective. Returning to photograph the same people and/or the same location a familiarity will develop.

On the street

Stand on the same busy street corner and photograph people enough, and you will begin to build some form of relationship. You’ll become familiar with the feel of the place.

Learn to anticipate what’s happening and see the rhythm. Picking the same time of day when the light is right, you will start to see the same people passing by during their daily routines. They may start to notice you. If they see you often enough, they will not likely pay you any attention, unless you want it.

All it takes, when you catch someone’s eye who has become a little familiar to you, is to smile. They will probably return one to you. Next time they see you, they may show interest and inquire what you are doing.

Connecting with people on the streets becomes more natural when they see you with your camera often. Some won’t show interest, but many will. The locals, the regulars, people who frequent the same location, are the most obvious ones to connect with.

These are the ones you can begin building a relationship with. Tell them you’re working on a photography project documenting your local neighborhood (or whatever your theme is). This will endear them because people like to feel included. We are designed to communicate with one another.

Even if you are a shy person, you can learn to use your camera as a bridge to achieve your purpose.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Kebab Chef in Istanbul

Connect with people. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

With a friend or family member

Photographing a friend or family member as a project, you will also develop your relationship with them. However they respond to you first, and how you relate to each other will change subtly each time you get together.

Show them some of your photos on your phone. They will be more confident when they can see the photos you’ve already taken. Don’t talk too long about what you’re doing; you want the attention to be on them.

You are best to have set your camera as much as possible before you meet with the person. If that’s not possible, ask them to give you a few minutes to set up. Doing this gives you space to scope out good light and background and to make the necessary camera tweaks.

Once you are happy with the light, background and your camera settings, it’s time to give most of your attention to your subject. Straighten their clothes a little, or get them to fix their hair, (unless it’s already perfect). Giving them this attention will help them feel better about themselves and build their confidence in you.

If it’s someone you don’t know well, ask them open-ended questions about themselves. Get to know them a little more. Make sure you start them talking.

If they are extroverts, they will love talking about themselves.

If they are introverts, you can help them get started, and they will feel more comfortable.

Attractive Young Woman DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Get to know the people you are photographing a little more. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Focus on asking questions that a simple yes or no won’t answer. Pay attention to what they are telling you. Do not be looking down at your camera. Focus on their story. Show them you’re interested.

Compliment what they are wearing or something else about the way they look. Aim to build up a positive atmosphere, especially if you sense they are feeling uneasy. Many people do not feel self-assured when being photographed. It’s an important part of your job to help them relax. The better they feel the more attractive they will look in the photos you take.

Initially, they may be shy also and feel awkward in front of your camera. Don’t worry about this. Make a bunch of photos and concentrate on relating to them. If you screw up and don’t get any decent images, use this as a lesson. Show them. Let them see what you are doing right and wrong.

Include them in your project, make it a team effort. The more they feel part of what you are doing the better photos you’ll end up taking. If you’ve messed up your settings, show them the photos and explain a little about what happened. Then make the same series of photos again.

Learning to communicate in such a manner that you help people enjoy the process of being photographed will benefit you and your subjects. Everybody enjoys seeing themselves looking good. Their feeling must precede their looks in your photos. If they don’t feel good about themselves, it’s likely they will not appreciate the photos you make of them.

At times your subject will be too uncomfortable. You won’t manage to make a flattering photo of them because of their tension. Show them the photos. Explain that the tension shows on their face and if they relax, they will like the photos you make of them.

People don’t usually look nervous when they view themselves in the bathroom mirror each morning. So when they see photos of themselves looking tense, it’s very unnatural to them. They do not perceive the image as a good likeness of who they are.

Working like this and showing off less than your best photos may be challenging, but it will help you grow.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Smiling woman wearing a straw hat

Everybody enjoys seeing themselves looking good. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photograph at social gatherings

Take your camera along to birthday parties, drinks after work, your kid’s sports events, or any place where people socialize. Doing so provides wonderful opportunities for people photography. When you can mix with the same people regularly, they will become accustomed to you being there with your camera.

For many people, this may seem a huge challenge. Think positively about it. Approach the situation and the people with a constructive attitude and with reasonable expectations. You will most likely find people will enjoy what you are doing, particularly when you start sharing your photos with them.

Be determined to work through your feelings of discomfort. Your first experience taking photos at a social gathering might be very difficult. Most of your uneasiness will be in your mind. If you give up after your first attempt, you will not know success. The more often you are present with your camera, the more confident you will become and the better photographs you will make.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Be determined to work through your feelings of discomfort. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Become a volunteer photographer

Do you go to church, a temple or a mosque? Are you or your kids a member of a sports club? Do you help out at a local animal shelter or participate in community events? All of these provide a fabulous opportunity to offer your services as a photographer.

Every group or organization loves to have good photographs. Putting yourself forward as a volunteer photographer can be a great experience. Here your camera really is your bridge.

Providing photos for a group or organization can be one of the best ways to build your confidence. Your commitment is greater because other people are relying on you.

Making it clear you are still learning is important. So long as they know this then you have the opportunity to improve over time. In the future, you will be producing wonderful photographs for the community you are volunteering for.

Ballet Dancing DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Offer your services as a photographer. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Travel portrait projects

I teach many people who mainly take photographs when they travel. They join our workshops, and many are too timid to photograph people. Or they prefer to stand well back and take candid pictures with a long lens.

Don’t be concerned if you can’t speak the language. Often this can be to your advantage. Use your camera as a bridge. When people see the smile on your face and even a slight gesture with your camera, they will know your intention. Hopefully, they will return your smile. This is permission to photograph them.

Non-verbal communication like this requires that you watch facial expression and body language. Some cultures may smile and mean ‘no.’ So long as you are observant and polite, you will be okay.

Myanmar Market Vendor DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Use your camera as a bridge. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

The candid option

Certain situations are best photographed without communicating with a person. Candid photography definitely has its place.

Choosing to stand back with a long lens attached to your camera and making candid images is okay when the circumstances are right. The photos you create using this technique will usually be void of subject/photographer connection.

Disturbing people who are engrossed in a conversation or their work breaks the natural flow of life. A candid photo will be more suitable than interrupting.

Artists and craftspeople at work are subjects best left to their creative endeavors. They are focused and passionate about what they are doing. A quick recognition and acknowledgment from them that they are comfortable with you photographing are best. A nod and a smile from you and their smile in return will not break their workflow or concentration. So long as you are not disrupting them, you will be able to capture intriguing portraits of them.

Choosing to work candidly should be a conscious decision because it’s going to produce the best photographs. Opting to capture images of people stealthily because you are too shy to communicate is never the best option.

Poi Sang Long Festival DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Candid photography definitely has its place. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Those not really candid photographs

At times you’ll find yourself in situations where you want candid photographs, but it’s just not possible. When people know you are there with your camera, truly-candid cannot happen. Capturing natural-looking photos of people in these circumstances is challenging, but not impossible.

When you are ‘the’ photographer

Weddings, portrait sessions, and similar situations do not allow for real candid photos. You have to be able to communicate well and arrange candid-looking images.

Most people like natural-looking photos. The skill is in controlling the circumstances so you get the results you want. This means you must know what you want and be able to relate your ideas clearly to the people you are photographing.

With couples, it’s easy. Just get them talking to each other. Encourage them to forget you’re there and then offer them a conversation starter. Ask them to recall the first time they met, or when they proposed to each other. If you want to lighten the mood and capture some laughter and smiles, ask them something fun.

Once you have them talking, don’t hold back on the photos. You are going to need to take a lot of pictures. What’s happening is more unpredictable, so you need the quantity to get enough quality photos.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Asian Buness Woman Phone Call

Aim to capture natural expression. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You will throw most of them out, but the ones you keep will be relaxed, natural, and vibrant. I used this technique whenever I photographed weddings. It helped produce the most interesting, un-posed photos.

I would use a longer lens, often my 180mm, so I could stay at a bit of a distance, but not too far away. That way, I could still talk with the couple but be far enough back so as not to be in their personal space.

Another wedding technique I used for semi-candid portraits was to get the groom to stand behind me and off to one side. While photographing the bride, I would get them to look at each other and have a conversation. If the groom was somehow stuck for things to say I would make suggestions, often a little rude. This worked well for getting fun, relaxed facial expressions. Then I would swap the bride and groom, and photograph him while they continued their conversation.

Photographing individual portraits is more challenging as you can’t draw attention away from yourself so easily. If you have someone else with you, an assistant or friend, you can prime them to be the distraction. Before you begin, let them know they will have a role to play when you want some more candid-looking photos. Coach them a little so that they will be prepared. When you’re ready, direct your subject’s attention and conversation to your helper.

Working alone is when your communication skills are the most important. Your ability to converse and take photos at the same time will be put to the test. You have to give full concentration to both your subject and what you are doing with your camera.

The practice is again the key in learning how to build your communication skill so you can get candid-looking portraits. It takes time and effort. As you try certain techniques and figure out what works and what doesn’t, you will develop your communication skill set. You will become more confident and effective.

Sad Young Asian Woman DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Develop your communication skill set. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Semi-candid street photography

Semi-candid street photos can be made successfully with a short lens and the right technique. You don’t need to keep your distance and remain in the shadows. Get close, be observant, relaxed, and normal.

People at our local markets know me now. They sell me vegetables, and many of them know I will take their photo some days. They might shy away, or they might pose.

I like to create a mixture of candid and posed photos when I am doing street photography. However, being conspicuous means, I have to employ certain techniques so that I am not the center of attention. Often there are not many other foreigners at the markets, so I stand out.

Often I will engage with someone I want to photograph. Generally, they will stop what they are doing, smile, and pose. This is what they perceive I want. I will take their picture anyway. I’ll make sure it’s well exposed, sharp and flattering. Then I will show them on my camera monitor. Most often they are happy, and we’ll chat a little before I move on.

Once I have moved on, I will wait a short time and then head back near to where they are. They will think my focus is elsewhere because I already have their photo.

Hopefully, they will not pay any attention to me. This is when I get the photos I really want.

Over the years, I have listened to and read of many photojournalists who aspire to be as invisible as possible. It can be a valuable skill to develop. You can learn to do it without actually having to hide your camera or stay a long way back from the action.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Create a mixture of candid and posed photos. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Giving back

Remember, your camera is the solution, not the problem. With your camera in hand, you have a purpose for being where you are and a reason to communicate with people.

You are not only taking a photograph but giving an interesting experience. If you are able to share your photos, then you are truly giving something of value to your subject.

Presenting prints to the people you photograph helps shape the way they see you. A set of small-sized prints is inexpensive and will be appreciated by most. If you capture a photo that’s worthy of enlarging this will have even more of an impact. The cost of an enlargement is insignificant compared to the joy it will bring your subject.

Collecting someone’s email or social media connection will also allow you to give back in a meaningful way. Some people may value this even more than prints because they can share a digital file.

Market porter with a photo of himself DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers

Your camera is the solution, not the problem. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Smile and say ‘hello’

I often walk the same way at the markets when teaching our photography workshops. I’d been noticing this one older man. His face was interesting, but he seemed shy and would not make eye contact with me. He had a small stand selling traditional northern Thai sticky rice. I decided I would smile and say hello to him each time I passed with the hope he would become familiar with me.

I did this for a while, and one day when my wife was helping me teach a workshop, I told her what I had been doing. As we approached him, she smiled and asked if we could make his portrait. She had the charm! He placed his hands on the big bowl of sticky rice, pushed his shoulders back, and smiled warmly for us. We made some lovely portraits of him.

Not long after this, I had another lovely encounter with a woman who was selling sticky rice at the same stall. Each time we visited the markets, we’d have a lovely conversation with this woman. She was friendly and relaxed, quite happy to be photographed. Having not seen the man at the stall for a few months, one day I asked her about him.

Her face dropped, and her eyes looked so sad. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I felt so terrible. The man was her husband. She told me that he’d passed away suddenly. Then a glimmer of hope appeared in her eyes, and she asked me if I’d made his portrait. I assured her I had and would bring her a print.

Normally when we print photos to give out, we get regular size prints. For this lady, we had an enlargement made and had it framed. She was very grateful. The next time I passed by she told me she had hung the portrait of her husband above her bed.

The moral of the story is, you never know how much you might bless someone by being bold enough to make their portrait. Think of what you do in a positive light. Sure, you will come across some people who do not want their photograph taken. As you practice building your confidence, your success rate will increase.

DPS Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for Shy Photographers Sticky rice vendor

You never know how much you might bless someone. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

The post The Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for the Shy Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes

The post Understanding Exposure Metering Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Your camera’s metering modes vary the way it measures the light. This affects the way exposure information is provided. Every modern camera has a built-in exposure meter. Sometimes it’s also referred to as a light meter.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Woman Photographer at the Shopping Mall

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Understanding how to control the exposure metering modes on your camera allows you to take better photos. If what you are photographing contains very little contrast, your camera will make a good exposure in the default mode. When you compose an image with contrast, your camera may not make the exposure you want it to.

Selecting the best metering mode allows you to take more pleasing photographs.

There are three basic exposure metering modes on most cameras. These are:

  1. Averaged
  2. Spot
  3. Center-Weighted

Choosing the most appropriate mode is a matter of choosing your main subject and making the right settings accordingly.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Thai Model and Elephant

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How do different exposure metering modes work?

1. Averaged

This mode is named differently depending on the brand of camera you use. Nikon calls it Matrix Metering. On Canon cameras, it’s called Evaluative Metering. Sony and Pentax use the term Multi-Segment Metering. Olympus calls it Digital ESP Metering. Each manufacturer has different algorithms to determine the outcome. Essentially they all do the same thing.

The camera partitions the viewfinder into zones and measures the light in each. It compares these light readings. Then it averages all the information to provide what it decides is the best exposure setting.

Most cameras have this mode as the default. This is how my camera is set most of the time. Using this mode will give you an overall idea of what your exposure settings need to be. When the light is fairly even, using this exposure meter mode works well.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Buddha Statue Even Lighting

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Spot

Using this mode, your exposure meter will measure the light from a small area – usually about 3.5% of the frame. You need to place the spot exactly where you want to take your reading from. This will most often be your main subject.

The position of the spot within your frame varies from camera to camera. In some cameras, the spot moves with the point of focus. On other cameras, it remains fixed in the center of the frame. It’s important you know where your spot is, otherwise your exposure can be incorrect. Consult your camera manual or do an online search to find how your camera’s spot meter is positioned.

3. Center-Weighted

This mode reads the light from an area in the center of your frame. The percentage of the area varies from camera to camera. It is typically around 60%. Some camera models allow you to vary the area it covers. This mode is good if you compose with your subject in the center. I rarely compose that way, so never use this mode.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Iron Bridge at Night, Chiang Mai, Thailand

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How to use the Exposure Meter

Half-pressing the shutter release button activates the exposure meter. It will turn off automatically after a time. So if you are not seeing the information it provides, it may have switched itself off.

In your viewfinder or on the monitor you’ll see the information displayed like this on most cameras.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Exposure Meter Graphic

Sony cameras use numbers and the + and – symbols to display the exposure information.

If you set your camera to manual exposure, you will see the information displayed when the meter is on. When in an auto mode this information may not be displayed. This is because the camera determines the exposure.

Using manual mode a ‘0’ in the display indicates when the exposure is correct. When the display shows a row of dots stretching towards the – symbol, your image will be underexposed. When the display shows a row of dots stretching towards the + symbol, your image will be overexposed.

Using this information, you can make the required adjustments to your aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO.

Karen Woman Cooking

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Why are there different Exposure Meter Modes?

Photographs are captured by digital cameras recording reflected light. Light and the tone of your subjects is variable. You need to set your exposure according to how bright or dark your subject appears.

Making a composition with very little tonal variation when the light is flat, your camera will easily make a correct exposure. When there’s high contrast, particularly when the light is harsh, it can be more difficult to get a correct exposure.

In high contrast situations, it’s important to manage your exposure meter. You must read the light from the most important area of your composition. Choosing Averaged or Center-Weighted Metering can often result in poorly-exposed photographs.

Spot metering is most useful when you’re photographing a composition where there’s a lot of contrast. Taking a spot meter reading from the main part of your composition will allow you to expose it well.

Portrait photography is one example of when it’s helpful to switch your metering mode to spot. The face of the person is normally the most important part of your composition. You want the person’s skin tone to be exposed well.

By placing the spot meter on your subject’s face and taking a meter reading, you can adjust the exposure accordingly. If you are using an Auto Mode, your camera will make the setting adjustments for you.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Buddhist Monk Candle Lighting Ceremony in Chiang Mai, Thailand

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Using spot metering on a camera when the spot is fixed in the center of the frame, you need to point it where you want to take the reading from. Using an Auto Mode when you recompose to frame your subject, you’ll need to hold the exposure lock button.  If you don’t lock the exposure, your camera will readjust the settings. In Manual Mode, the settings remain constant until you change them again.

Illustrative examples

Photographing a person against a dark or light background requires careful metering so their skin tone looks natural.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes Masu Dark Background

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Here’s a portrait of Masu. She is a Kayan woman living with her family in Thailand. I positioned my spot meter to take a reading from her face. In this case, my exposure setting was 1/640th of a second at f/4 and my ISO was set to 400.

If I had used Averaged or Center-Weighted metering, my exposure would have been incorrect. The camera would have accounted for a large portion of the black background.

Placing the spot meter on her face was important. If I’d left the spot in the center of the frame my reading would have been incorrect. It would have read the light reflecting off the black. This would give a reading which would have led to an overexposed skin tone.

Masu Light Background

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

With Masu standing against the white background, I made my exposure metering the same way. The settings are identical to the settings I used for the black background. This is because the light had not changed, only the background.

Conclusion

Choosing the right exposure metering mode helps you better control your exposures. It’s important to look at the light and tone in your composition. Then determine the most important area to expose for. The more contrast there is, the more important it is to meter well.

 

exposure-metering-modes

 

The post Understanding Exposure Metering Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

21 Tips for Doing Stock Photography

The post 21 Tips for Doing Stock Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Being a stock photographer is a bit like being in a band. Not many make it to rock star status, but they love what they do and enjoy earning some extra cash on the side.

Producing photos to sell through stock photo agencies can bring more purpose to your photography. It can help you focus and build your skills more than if you are doing photography purely as a hobby.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Back Packer On The Train

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Over the years the digital stock photography industry has gone through many changes. In the past, it was arguably easier to make some decent money, even very good incomes. But the percentage of contributors who made a full time living selling stock photos was proportionately very small.

Approach stock photography with a healthy attitude and without grand expectations. You may be surprised at how much you learn, how much you enjoy it and even how much you can earn.

Here are a few tips for doing stock photography that I’ve put together. They will encourage those of you thinking of dabbling in the stock photography market.

1. Treat it like a business

The more business-like you treat stock photography, the more success you will have with it. A casual approach will bring casual returns. There’s no problem with this if it’s what you want.

If you’re serious about making real money from stock photography set up a business right from the start. Make a plan and stick to it. Keep records of your expenditure and earnings. Dedicate time regularly to focus on the mechanics that will make it work.

Having no plan and a relaxed attitude towards producing stock photos will not get you very far. Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to make it a full-time occupation. Having some kind of plan in place and a business attitude about what you are doing will still help.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Merlion Park, Singapore

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Choose your niche

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is getting your images noticed. The stock photography market is so saturated that it can be difficult to get your photos in front of buyers.

Choosing your niche, a few topics and concepts to concentrate on can help this. Pick some subjects you are passionate about. Purposefully become an expert at photographing them. Build up a portfolio of photographs that will grab attention.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Burmese Dancer

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Study design trends

Designers buy stock photos. Study the current trends and stay up to date as they change. Look at styles, colors, and image usage to see what buyers need.

Flip through magazines. Browse websites. Watch TV. You’ll begin to see stock photos everywhere. Take note of the ones you like the best and mimic them.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Boy With A Note Book

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

4. See what’s worked before

Spend time on stock photography websites. Look at the best selling images and think about why they are so popular. What makes them work? Why have so many people bought them? How can you improve on them?

Trends and fashions change. Think about how you can rework older stock photos that have been very popular to make them more current.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Tropical Palm Tree Sunset

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Aim at the market

Know your market. Find out what people are buying. Fill the gap with what’s missing.

Learn about the potential market for your niche. Study it and supply the type of images that will be popular. You may have to try different styles and ideas for a while before you hit on some that work. Experiment until you have a breakthrough.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Commuters

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Check out the masters

Find rockstar stock photographers. Look at their portfolios. How have they made it a successful enterprise?

If you can find successful stock photographers who work in the same niche as you, this is great. Search for trends and patterns in their work. Seek to find fresh ideas. Don’t copy, make sure you add your own flare.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Dancing Shoes

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Polish your technique

Having technically strong photographs will mean more of them are accepted by the stock agencies. Standards appear to have slipped over the past years. This is still no excuse for not submitting technically correct photos.

Modern cameras, even on phones, and new software make it very easy to create high-quality photographs. The higher your standard, the higher your sales will be.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Sunrise Dinghy

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

8. Use lots of light

One trend that never has gone out of fashion in stock photography is photos with an abundance of light. Well-lit images often convey positive emotion. Advertisers like this and will buy feel-good photos.

Make sure to produce some photos from every session that have more light than you would normally use, especially if your photos tend to be dark and moody. There’s room for that style of image to sell as stock, but bright photos often sell better.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Empty Water Bottles

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

9. Make sure it’s sharp

Good sharp images will always sell. Clarity in your photographs is important to buyers. Too many images in your portfolio with a shallow depth of field will make it of limited appeal.

Be precise with your focus too, especially when using a shallow depth of field. Your photos must be sharp in the right place or they are not likely to make it through the inspection process.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Thai Sunset

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

10. Compose for copy space

Stock photos are often used in advertisements or design layouts which include text. Leaving some negative space in your compositions can make them much more practical for designers.

Experiment with your compositions. Leaving more space around your subject can mean the photo is more useful to a designer.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Red Umbrellas on a Tropical Island Beach

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

11. Take a series of photos

Whenever you’re creating a new set of photos for stock, make sure to take a whole series. Look at your subject from as many different angles as you can. Vary your compositions and aim to provide variety for the buyer.

Don’t only take the first angle you think of. Consider how the photo might be used and look at it in different ways. Producing a series of photographs is more practical for buyers as it gives them more choice.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Thai Traditional Costume

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

12. Be prolific

The more photos you take, the more you can upload. The more you can sell.

Make sure you supply a good variety of images as often as you can from a subject or concept. Building a strong portfolio of photos means you give buyers more options.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Thai Model and Elephant

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

13. Be practical

Don’t imagine producing photos set in a hospital or commercial kitchen if you don’t have ready access to such locations.

If you want to take product photos, set yourself up a good studio space, so it’s easy to take this style of photo. The more hassle-free you can work, the more photos you can take with less expense. Your profit will increase.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Old Bibles

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

14. Develop your own style

Style takes time to develop. Have a plan and purpose, and a clear idea of the type of photographs you want to produce. This will lead to the development of your own personal style.

Don’t stress over this. Letting it come about naturally will make it more distinctive. When buyers see your style consistently represented in your portfolio, they will watch what you do and buy from you more often.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Karen Grandma

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

15. Post-process consistently

The look and feel of your photos created during post-production have a lot to do with the development of your style.

Presets can help make this easier. Using the same set of preset actions to govern the way your images are rendered will help tie your portfolio together.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Sad Young Asian Woman

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

16. Diversify the agencies you upload to

If you have time, it’s a good idea to send your images to more than one or two stock photo agencies.

When you are starting out, this can take up a lot of your time. By uploading too many, you will see which ones sell and which ones do not sell so well. Look at the statistics, not only for your sales, but also for how many views your photos receive on each platform. If your images are not being looked at, consider uploading less to that site or not at all.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Hanging Asian Lanterns

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

17. Stick with one agency to save time

If your time is limited, you might find it’s best to enter into an exclusive contract with one agency.

Some stock photo agencies offer incentives if you only upload to them. This may mean they pay you a higher percentage of each sale.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Young Couple

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

18. Learn about copyright issues

Understanding copyright will help you when you are deciding what to photograph. There are two basic types of stock photo license. Commercial licenses restrict photos which are subject to copyright. Editorial licenses are less restrictive, but the use of the photos is more limited.

Any photo with;

  • A trademark,
  • design made by someone else,
  • commercial branding
  • or recognizable people

means you need a property or model release to sell them with a commercial license because of copyright laws.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Airport Plane

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

19. Use model release forms

Have every person you photograph sign a standard model release form. This means you can sell these photos with a commercial license. Having model releases makes photos of people more practical for buyers.

These forms are readily available on stock photography websites. A good generic release form can be used when uploading to multiple agencies.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Mad Scientist With Red Liquid

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

20. Keyword well

Good keywording of your images is essential. There is no point uploading photos if you don’t add appropriate keywords. Without them, your photos will never be seen.

Spend some time to research how to add the right words. Don’t load your photos with too many, just enough relevant information about them so they will show up in search results.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Gears

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

21. Upload a little and often

Uploading a few images every day will help keep your portfolio fresh. Stock photography agencies reward constant uploaders by making their photos float to the top of search results.

If you only upload occasionally, you will not sell so many. If you’ve had a major photo session and produced a lot of images, spread out when you upload them. As you start to post-process them, upload them in batches rather than waiting until the whole project is complete.

21 Tips For Stock Photography Close Up Table Setting

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Experimentation is essential to find out which of your photographs will sell the best. Try different approaches using the tips I have outlined here, and find what works for you.

Stock photography is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes time and a lot of hard work to be very successful. The more methodical you are at creating images to sell, post-processing, and keywording them well, the more you will sell.

Do you have any other tips for doing stock photography that you’d like to share with us in the comments below?

 

21-tips-for-doing-stock-photography

The post 21 Tips for Doing Stock Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography

The post How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

It’s a common misconception that the f-stop you use will control depth of field (DOF). Aperture setting certainly has an influence, but there are other factors to consider.

DOF is the area in a photograph which is acceptably sharp. Lenses can only focus at a single point. There is always a certain amount in front and behind the focus point which is acceptably sharp.

How To Control Your Depth of Field Thai dancer

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f2, 1/250 sec, ISO 200 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

This varies depending on:

  • Aperture setting
  • Lens focal length
  • Camera distance to the subject
  • Sensor size.

The transition between what’s sharp and what’s not is gradual. It’s important to learn how to manage the variables to create the look you want in your photographs.

How sensor size affects DOF

The physical dimension of the sensor in your camera affects DOF. Unlike the other variables, it’s not possible for you to change, unless you use a different camera.

Small sensors, such as in phones and compact cameras, give you the most DOF. This is one main reason people upgrade from a phone to a camera. Because they are not able to achieve a shallow depth of field with their phone.

Phone manufacturers are trying to mimic shallow DOF in various ways. But as yet it appears to be little more than a poor gimmick. There is no substitute for size.

Basically, cameras with smaller sensors make photos with more DOF at the same aperture and distance settings. To make comparisons of DOF from different-sized sensors, you must calculate the same effective focal length and aperture settings.

Larger sensors in DSLR and mirrorless cameras have made them popular with video producers. This is because of their capacity for shallow DOF. Traditional video cameras contain small sensors so therefore generally have deeper DOF.

How To Control Depth of Field Thai models

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105mm, Settings: f3.2, 1/400 sec, ISO 500 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How camera to subject distance affects DOF

The closer you are to your subject, the less DOF you will have at any given aperture setting, with any lens on every camera. Move further back, and your DOF increases.

This is why it can be challenging when taking close-up photos to have enough DOF. Being very close to your subject may mean you do not get it all in focus. Using macro lenses and close up attachments amplifies this problem.

So if you are still only using your kit lens, you’ll need to move in close to achieve a shallow DOF. This is because these lenses do not have a very wide maximum aperture or long focal length.

Remember that from the point you are focused on 1/3rd of the DOF will be closer to you and 2/3rds of it will be further away. Knowing this can help you choose your point of focus to control you DOF more precisely.

How To Control Your Depth of Field Model and Mask

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105mm, Settings: f3, 1/100 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How lens focal length affects (apparent) DOF

The longer focal length lens you use the shallower the DOF appears. But it doesn’t actually change.

If you take photos of the same subject with two different focal length lenses, the images made with the wider lens appear to have a deeper DOF. The aperture should remain constant. When you crop the image made with the wider field of view, so the elements in the images are the same size, you will see no real difference.

The idea that longer focal lengths produce a shallower DOF is a myth. Peter West Carey has already written an article for DPS about this based on Matt Brandon’s experimentation. Matt’s images prove the point clearly. It can be a difficult concept to comprehend. Especially if you are predisposed to the popular idea that focal length affects DOF.

Thai Elephants and Model

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How aperture affects DOF

The aperture is an adjustable opening within a lens. The primary function is one of the controls used to control the amount of light entering the camera. A narrow aperture setting lets in less light than a wider setting. The settings are measured in f-stops.

Adjusting the aperture setting, (changing the f-stop value,) not only controls the amount of light entering, but also the DOF. Changing the aperture is the most common way photographers choose to control DOF. The wider aperture the shallower the DOF. So the lower f-stop number you choose (eg. f/1.4), the less of your image will be acceptably sharp. Choosing a narrower aperture, a higher f-stop number (eg. f/22), will render more of your photo in focus.

Lenses are made with differing maximum apertures. Typically a kit lens will have a widest aperture value of f/3.5 when the lens is zoomed to its widest focal length. This value changes the more you zoom in. So the widest f-stop at the longest focal length may only be f/6.3. For information please read the article ‘What The Numbers On Your Lens Mean.’

Prime lenses usually have a wider maximum aperture. This is why they are often favored by photographers who like creating photos with a shallower DOF. Popular 50mm lenses have f-stop settings of f/1.8, f/1.4 or even wider. For more information about zooms and prime lenses please read ‘Primes Versus Zoom Lenses: Which Lens to Use and Why?’

Elephant Cuddle

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f2.8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How can you see the DOF when composing a photo?

Cameras with digital viewfinders or monitors will display the DOF as it will appear in the photo. Because of the small size, it can be difficult to see clearly unless you zoom in.

Cameras such as DSLRs with optical viewfinders will not allow you to see the effect of the DOF unless you use the DOF preview button. This is because the aperture is automatically set to the widest possible. It is adjusted to the f-stop you’ve chosen as you press the shutter release button. If the f-stop were able to be altered while composing, at narrow apertures, the image would appear dark in your viewfinder. You can see this when you use the DOF preview.

How To Control Depth of Field Thai Model with Elephants

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f4, 1/640 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Manage your DOF well

Keeping all these variables balanced may seem complicated. But it’s important to know how each of them affects DOF so you can manage it well in your photos.

To help you learn how each aspect of DOF works try setting up a few photos and experimenting with them. Not for the sake of making great pictures, but to understand how changing each one affects the look of your images. It will be good to set your camera on a tripod or stable surface for this exercise.

Line up a few objects in your frame which are at different distances from your camera. Set your aperture to its widest – the lowest f-stop number (eg. f/1.4). Get as close to the first object as you can so that your lens will focus on it.

How To Control Depth of Field

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 55mm, Settings: f4, 1/30 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take a photo of it, then focus on another object further away from you and take another photo. Repeat this with each object further away from you as you have in your frame.

Now repeat this process with a middle range aperture setting and then the narrowest your lens has. Try this with different focal lengths as well.

Then move back and make another series of photos the same way. Repeat this process as you move further back from your subject.

Compare the photos side by side on your computer and take note of the differences in DOF between them. Look at the EXIF data so you can see what your aperture and zoom settings were.

Working through an exercise like this will help you learn to control depth of field. As you can see the effects in your photos it will become less complicated.

Let me know in the comments below how you get on.

 

control depth of field in photography

The post How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos

The post Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Good documentaries tell a story, often with the help of a narrator. To add interest to your travel photos you can employ the same techniques.

Showing your family and friends endless pictures of your recent adventures may seem exciting to you. You were there. You had the experience. They didn’t. If you want them to sit through your latest travel slideshow, you need to make it interesting.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Happy Market Vendor

I had a lovely conversation with this man. He and his wife come to sell vegetables at their market stall each day. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Here are some tips on how to add more interest to your photos and create better documentary travel photos.

Tell a story with your photographs

Planning your trip took time and effort. Deciding where you wanted to go, what you wanted to see and how long you would stay. Why not include your photography in the planning stage as well?

Think about why you’re going and what you’ll be doing. How can you turn this into a story? Think about adding a connecting thread of what interests and attracts you most to each location you’ll visit.

Make a list of some themes you can follow. Each day you are traveling, check your list and make sure to include some of the items in your photos.

You might want to photograph:

  • specific architectural aspects
  • local artists working
  • old people’s faces
  • coffee shops
  • street signs
  • advertising hoardings.

Consider what’s most relevant to the places you’ll go. Which of these interest you the most and will make the best photo opportunities. Plan to spend more time at these locations.

Bicycle Close Up Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Many tourists choose to rent bicycles for sightseeing in Chiang Mai because the city is mostly flat. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Get the whole picture

One trick I learned when starting out in video production was to always capture wide, medium and close-up angles. This allows for more flexibility to build up the whole picture when editing. The same works when creating documentary travel photography.

I often encourage our travel photography workshop participant to imagine they are working for a magazine. They need to produce a series of images for their editor to show the essence of each place they visit.

Only capturing wide or close-up details is not going to build a complete picture.

red chillies Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Close up of large red chilies. The larger the chilly, the milder it is. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You need to get in close. Show the texture and patterns.

Muang Mai Market Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Muang Mai Market in Chiang Mai is the biggest and busiest food market in northern Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You need to stand back to encompass the whole scene.

Fruit Vendor Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Owners of small shops, restaurants, and household shoppers all come to buy produce at Muang Mai market. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You need to come in tighter and capture what’s happening at that place.

Include your travel companions

Traveling with other photographers usually makes life easier. You can take your time rather than being hurried along by someone taking snapshots with their phone.

One way to make the most of your time with non-photographer travel companions is to include them in your photos. Make them part of your story.

I don’t mean for you to just take cheesy social-media-styled pictures of your partner. Put them in the story. Show what you’re doing and the interesting aspects of the places you visit. Having the people you’re traveling with in some of your photos makes them more personal.

Including them in some activity helps tell the story. Photograph them ordering meals or coffee. Take pictures of them boarding the boat or rickshaw. Make photos about what you are doing together, not only of what you are looking at.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Myanmar Village Friends

My wife and I enjoyed meeting the locals at Pompee village when we traveled to Myanmar. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take time out

If including your travel companions is not possible, take time out for photography. Arrange time each day to spend time with your camera with no other objective.

Rushing from place to place without taking the time to engage in your photography story is frustrating. Give yourself permission to enjoy using your camera.

This may mean having to wake up earlier than others you’re traveling with. It might be ducking out of the restaurant while you’re waiting for your lunch or dinner to be prepared. You will find it’s worth it because you will get better photographs when you can take your time.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Wat Pra Darapirom

This ornate temple complex on the outskirts of Chiang Mai includes examples of Lanna and Shan temple architecture. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Book a photography workshop

Many popular travel destinations offer opportunities for travel photography workshops or photo tours.

Investing in either of these will undoubtedly mean you will come away with better photos. You’ll be experiencing the location with a photographer who knows it more intimately. They will be able to take you to the most interesting places at the best times for photos.

Taking a photography workshop you’ll also learn some new skills. Being on vacation is a great time to learn because you can put into practice what you learn immediately.

A good travel photography workshop will incorporate teaching camera and photography skills. You’ll also learn local cultural information which will improve your photography experience.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Photography Workshop Teaching

Kevin Landwer-Johan teaching a photography workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Pansa Landwer-Johan

Take more photos and edit them

Take more photos than you think you need to. Then choose the best.

Don’t go crazy and make snapshots of everything you see. A good subject does not make a good photograph. You don’t want to return home with hundreds of photos you could have made with your phone.

When you find something interesting to photograph, look at it from different angles. Consider how it will look from different points of view. Walk around and make a series of photos. Wide, medium and close up of the same subject.

Taking time to do this will mean you have more to work with to help tell your story. If you’re not taking enough photos, you may regret it later when you see gaps in your narrative.

Weeding out the rubbish photos and only showing the best ones is important. No one will want to look through all the photos you take. Be discerning and be selective about which ones you choose to share. This will help you in taking better photos next time you travel too.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Tuktuks

Tuk-tuks are an iconic part of Chiang Mai’s public transport. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Caption your photographs

Captioning your photographs is like adding a narrative to your story.

Include details of the location and maybe the time of day when it’s relevant. Think about how you can add information which will enhance your photograph. Don’t always include the obvious. You don’t need to describe what can already be seen.

A caption may be a few words or several sentences. Your caption should be succinct and informative. Don’t waffle or include irrelevant information. Use your captions to support your photos and enhance your story.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

I found an alternative point of view to take this photo of a tuk-tuk. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Vacation travel is usually exciting. You see and experience new and interesting things more frequently than when you’re at home. This trends for more interesting photographs.

You want to put together a documentary travel photography story that will not put your family and friends to sleep. Tell your story well and you’ll inspire them to travel too.

 

Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos

The post Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

The post How to Create a Documentary Photography Project appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

We all love a good story. A tale that captures your attention and draws you in to discover more. Creating a documentary photography project can be a great way to develop your photography. It can also help hold the attention of your audience for longer.

Monk in a Saamlor tricycle taxi in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Random collections of unrelated images tend to be glanced over. This is especially so when most of your photography is viewed on social media platforms. Making your photography stick in people’s minds is a constant challenge.

Developing a photography project and working on it over a period of time, be it weeks, months or even years, can help you stand out from the crowd. Your personal skills and style will evolve in a more meaningful direction. The deeper commitment you have to a documentary photography project the more you will benefit.

Have a plan and a purpose for your photography project

Charging into a project on a whim will sometimes work, but not often. Without purpose and a plan, you are more likely to lose interest. You’ll struggle to keep momentum and find it too challenging to come up with fresh ideas to keep your project alive.

Start a list. Write down ideas as they come to you. What would most like to photograph? As you start, don’t restrict yourself. Jot down whatever comes to mind, giving no thought to whether or not it’s practical. Let your list grow over a week and then review it.

Market Tricycle Taxi Ride How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Give yourself some space alone with your list. Edit it down to what’s practical. What can you photograph every day, or every week? If anything on your list is not accessible to you, remove it. Add it to a list for future projects.

Concentrate on what excites you. What’s on your list that you’d most like to commit to photographing regularly? Having a passion for your theme or concept will keep you motivated. Don’t choose ideas you think will be easy. Being challenged is good for you.

Narrow your list down to two or three ideas. Mull these over before deciding on one of them. Even make a start on more than one. You can begin work on more than one project, then, if it’s too much of a commitment, pick the one you’re enjoying the most.

Now write another list of what you will do with the photos you’ll create for your documentary project. Stories are for sharing. Who will be interested in the tale you are telling? What’s the best medium or platform for you to display your images?

You might want to make a physical scrapbook with prints of your favorite photos. Instagram or Pinterest may be an ideal outlet for you, or your own website. Photo sharing sites like 500px or Flickr are also options. You could email a small selection of your project photos to one or two photographer friends each week for their feedback. Consider what you most want to achieve by sharing your photos.

Tricycle Detail How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Know your subject better than anyone

Research. Dig into your chosen project idea like it’s brand new. Even if you already know a lot about it, find out more. Telling a story built on thin information will not hold people’s attention for very long.

The more of an expert you become on your subject, the better the story you will tell. You might even want to plan a narrative. What will be the beginning, middle, and end? The greater your knowledge about it, the more interesting detail you’ll be able to include. You want other experts on your topic to be surprised at what you are showing them in your photos.

Look into the history of the project idea. Talk to people who know about your topic. Don’t only rely on the internet. To touch the heart of the thing will require experience – yours and other people’s.

Tricycle Taxi Rest How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take lots of photographs

While it’s important to plan, don’t be held back by it. Make a start as soon as you have decided on what your documentary photography project will be. You might start slowly and change direction a few times, but that’s okay.

Procrastinating will not help you achieve your goals. Once you begin, you will see your story develop, and you can steer it in any direction you feel is right.

The topic for your project may dictate how frequently you can take photos. Hopefully, this will be regular, especially if you are embarking on your first documentary photo project.

Vary the images you are making. You may decide to use one prime lens. If so, push yourself to create a diverse selection of compositions with it. Or use your widest and your longest lens with the same subject on the same day for variety.

Waiting for a Ride How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Use a mixture of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings to also help build an interesting series of photos. If there’s movement, let it blur out using a slow shutter speed. If you would normally photography a subject with a wide aperture, close it down and get as much in focus as possible. Stretch your technique beyond what you would typically use.

Photograph in a mixture of lighting situations. Take some photos in the morning and others in the afternoon or at night. Aiming for variety will give you a more interesting body of work to edit down from for the images you will share.

As you build up a body of work, you will begin to see your strengths and weaknesses. You will see the photos you like the most. Organize these into a separate folder, or series of folders so that you can compare them often.

Taxi Rider in Chiang Mai, Thailand How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Cultivate a relationship with your project

Photographing a project will involve some amount of repetition. You’ll visit the same locations. Photograph the same things. Meet the same people. Experience weather and seasonal changes.

Be aware of your feelings each time you are working on your project. Make photographs that are in tune with your mood and how you are experiencing what you are doing. This will make your story more personal and interesting.

Your view of the world is unique, and your photographs should portray this. The concept may seem a little abstract, but as you are mindful of it and practice over time, you will find your photos become more expressive of who you are.

Waiting for Customers How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Interacting with people who are part of your project, if there are any, will help develop the character in your photo story. You might prefer to only take candid photos of people, but the way you do this will also reflect in your pictures. Using a long lens, or a wide one, will result in very different candid images.

Engaging with people throughout your project is very interesting. At the start, people may be uncertain of what you’re doing or why. As you revisit and photograph them, your relationship with them will change. People will become accustomed to you and will be more relaxed in your presence. Others may become irritated or bored. The nature of the photos you make of them will change.

Observe the differences. What’s changed since the last time you worked on your project? Look for subtitles you may not have picked up on if you’d only photographed in that place once. Over time you will start to see things you did not pick up on before. These details can add a depth of interest to your documentary project.

Poise of the Rider How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Review your photos and seek feedback

What do you think of your photos? Are others enjoying your visual storytelling?

Working on a project allows you to see your own photography developing. Because you’re photographing the same theme or concept over a period of time, you will reproduce similar types of photos. Compare them. Can you see growth in your skills and style?

Separate the top 10 or 20 percent of your photos after each session you have working on your project. This will give you a clearer idea of your progress. From time to time, review these photos and look for gaps in your story. What’s missing? What are you photographing too much?

Having a photographer friend or mentor look over your photos and share their critique on them will help you see things from another perspective. They may point out things or ask questions you have not thought of. Healthy feedback can lead to a deeper, richer story being told.

Cycle Taxi Shadow How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Let your documentary photography project grow organically

Go with the flow. Don’t stick to your plan too closely if you feel a more exciting story is emerging from your project. Let it develop organically. This will help you keep interested in what you are doing. You may stretch your project out for longer than you had planned.

Start today. Begin writing your list of ideas. Don’t rush it, but don’t let the idea stagnate. Once you begin, keep thinking about your project and adding to it. Right from when you start your list, through to the taking of photos and sharing them.

Have you ever given yourself the challenge of a documentary photography project? You may find you love the more in-depth storytelling aspect of working on a body of work.

Do you already have a project which has stalled a little and needs a kickstart? Design a story for it and plan to share it. This can help you get back on track.

 

The post How to Create a Documentary Photography Project appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

The post An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Many beginner photographers, and some more experienced ones, fall into the trap of thinking a good subject will make a good photo. It’s not true. I’ve seen loads of terrible photos of fabulous subjects.

A good photographer makes good photos, no matter what the subject. I like how British photographer Martin Parr describes his work. He says his aim is to make the ordinary look extraordinary.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

The late afternoon light makes this landscape more interesting. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

To make the best photo, whether or not your subject is impressive, you need to:

Achieving all these five aspects of interesting photographs in a single frame is challenging. It takes skill, practice, and patience.

Being mindful of these pillars of good photography will lead you away from the snapshot trap when you see something interesting. Learning to keep these things in mind, you will gradually improve and be able to make the most mundane object look great when you photograph it.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

Without the interesting cloud formation, this landscape would be rather dull. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Master your camera technique

Confidence in managing your camera is essential. Using your camera without understanding much of how it works will frustrate your creative growth. Learning what each of the main settings does on your camera is not difficult.

Control of the exposure is made using the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Focus is either automatic or manual. None of these are hard to master when you put your mind to it and spend some time practicing. Figuring out what part of your composition needs to be exposed well and where the focus point needs to be are part of your creative choice.

Mastering the basic technical aspects of using your camera will free you up to become more creative with your photography.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

Careful exposure makes this winter tree more interesting. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Press your shutter at the right time

Choose the optimum moment to take your photo. Consider the action happening in front of you. Look at the colors as they change when the sun is rising and setting. Watch a flower blooming in your garden. Each instance you take a photo, make sure it’s the optimum one.

What determines the decisive moment for when you take a photo depends on many things. Each circumstance is different, so it’s important for you to observe what’s happening carefully.

Sometimes you’ll need to respond quickly. Other times you’d best be patient and wait, or come back another time. This is so for landscape and architecture photography where the right light and weather conditions are so vital.

Anticipating when the best time is will help you nail it more often. Think about what will happen next. What is the sequence of events that will unfold? How are clouds moving in the sky? Will they cover the sun before it sets?

In situations where you have some control over your subject and the action, timing is not so difficult to predict. You can ask the model to flick her hair back on the count of three. You could ask your kids to run and jump over the sleeping dog and be ready for them.

Timing is one of the key elements which influence good photos. Each picture you take is a short moment in time. Making sure you capture the right moment can often make or break your photographs.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

The day I took this photo it was raining – all day. The sun came out in the evening and it was worth waiting for. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Craft your compositions

Relying on your subject to make your photo interesting means you may not compose it well. Don’t just plonk it central in your viewfinder, focus and click. Everyone with a camera can do that.

Move around. Look for a better background without distractions. Take a little time to think through some rules of composition. Are there strong lines you could incorporate? Will using the rule of thirds make the photo stronger? What else is in the frame and is it relevant to your photo?

Use different focal length lenses to incorporate more or less background. With a wide lens, you’ll see more background. Using a longer lens will cut more of the background and help isolate your subject. Longer lenses also give the impression of compressed distance where wide lenses do the opposite.

Lots of the best street photography looks as if it’s been made in a hurry. People rushing past, glancing at the camera. Or absorbed in what they are doing. Mostly these photos are not snapshots. The photographer has planned well and anticipated the action. Then waited.

Action is more easily caught and composed well when patience and observation are applied.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

The whole dam was interesting, but it was too hard to find an interesting angle for the whole structure, so I cropped in tight. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Lighting for feeling

Hard light or soft light will create different moods.

Strong contrast when you have hard light is more dramatic. If you want a softer, more romantic feeling, hard light is not the best. Even with an interesting subject, such as a newborn baby or a flower, harsh lighting will not provide a gentle feeling in your photograph.

Matching the lighting to the mood you wish to create in your photograph will make the photo feel right. There are no fixed rules. You must decide for yourself with each photo. This is part of your creative expression as a photographer.

Think about the direction the light’s coming from. It is hard or soft? How is it affecting your subject? Is there too much shadow or contrast for the mood you want?

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Connect with your subject

No matter what you choose to photograph, the more you connect with your subject the better photos you will make of it.

I always thought this applied only to people, and maybe animals. I’ve changed my perspective, and now think it can apply to anything you photograph.

I love flowers. My wife loves them more and loves to grow them. She takes much better photographs of flowers than I do because she has that passion. It shows in her pictures.

If you love the location you live in, or maybe where you grew up, you will photograph it more intimately than a stranger to it probably will.

How you connect with people you’re photographing will certainly make a huge difference in your photos.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Take your time. Be more observant. When you find your next alluring subject, consider how you can make the best photo of it. Don’t rely on its interest value alone.

Travel photography is prone to snap-shooting. When you travel, you always see new and interesting things to photograph. This is part of what makes travel so interesting. I often encourage people who take our photography workshops not to be travel snapshooters.

Ansel Adams said, “The most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Think about your subject and how you can treat it.

Remember, it’s the photographer who makes the picture interesting, not the subject.

 

The post An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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