5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

The post 5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to take stunning macro photos…

…on a budget?

In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how you can capture amazing macro photos (without breaking the bank). You’ll discover 5 DIY macro photography hacks which you can use for consistently gorgeous images.

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

Sound good?

Let’s dive right in, starting with:

1. Use a board for a stunning macro photography background

First things first:

In macro photography, the background matters almost as much as your main subject. Because the background is what makes your main subject stand out.

One of my favorite backgrounds is a solid, uniform color:

Dark black.

Black backgrounds allow you to capture somber, moodier macro photography. Like this:

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

Now, achieving a natural black background in nature can be tough. Which is why this DIY hack is so valuable. Because you can use it to create a deep black background in all of your macro photos.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Go to your local hardware store and purchase a plywood board. I’d suggest something ultra-thin (because wood can get heavy, fast). I’d also go for a decent size: at least two feet on all sides.

Step 2: Purchase black paint and primer. I recommend getting a sample paint pot (one should be more than enough). These are cheap and work just fine. The primer is to prevent the wood from tainting the color.

Step 3: Add the primer and paint the board. I’d recommend two coats of black paint for that ultra-dark look.

Step 4: Let the board dry.

Now comes the fun part:

Actually taking the photos!

You should choose a main subject that’s fairly light (e.g., yellow and white flowers). Position your main subject so that it’s in the sun, with the black board in the shade, a foot or so behind it. You want to create as much contrast as possible between the board and your subject. That is, you want a light subject on a dark board.

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

The goal is to lose absolutely all detail in the background. If you don’t fully achieve this in-camera, you can use an editing program to drop the blacks in your images.

You can still make this work with diffused (i.e., cloudy) light. But you’ll need to do a bit more work in post-processing to bring down the blacks.

Bottom line?

You can work some serious magic with just a board and some paint.

Try it yourself! And watch as you capture amazing macro images.

2. Use a lightbox for a stunning high-key, transparent look

Have you ever wanted to capture macro photos that look bright and high-key? Maybe even transparent?

With this DIY hack, you can!

All you need is a basic lightbox, often used by artists for tracing. You can purchase one for around 20 dollars on Amazon. While a bigger lightbox is generally better, anything A4 and above should work fine.

Once you have your lightbox, you’ll need to choose a main subject. Flowers with translucent petals work best. And the flatter the flower, the better.

You’ll want to work in a room that has only diffused ambient light. You want your flowers to have a soft, even look.

Then turn on the lightboard, and place your flowers on top of it.

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

I recommend shooting parallel to the lightbox from above. While you can do everything handheld, I don’t recommend this, especially if your flowers are more three dimensional. Instead, mount your camera on a tripod and use a narrow aperture (i.e., f/8 and above) to ensure perfect sharpness.

Once you have your shots, you’ll probably need to do a bit of post-processing. I recommend increasing the whites, to give a slightly brighter, airier look.

3. Shoot with one flower in a vase for powerful compositions

There’s no doubt about it:

The way that flowers are positioned can make a macro shot look amazing…or terrible. If several flowers are overlapping, your photo may fall flat.

But if you can isolate a single flower

…that’s when things start to look really compelling.

Now, when you’re shooting in nature, you don’t have much control over this. You have to work with what you’ve got.

But if you use this DIY macro photography hack, you can capture a gorgeous set of macro flower photos.

Guaranteed.

Here’s how it works:

Go to your local grocery store, and purchase a bouquet of your favorite flowers. I like to work with tulips, but you can really use anything!

When you get home, check over the flowers for blemishes and other issues. Find the biggest, best-looking flowers of the bunch.

And then put them all in separate vases (or cups).

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

Note: You want the flowers to extend pretty far over the top of the vase, which is why I suggest you avoid taller vases.

The next time the light is good, take all the vases outside. Place them in front of a gorgeous background.

(I often use an orange sky at sunset.)

And then photograph all the flowers, individually. Because they’re in separate vases, they’ll all be perfectly isolated. And this will allow you to easily capture powerful compositions.

Try it.

You’ll love the final product.

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

4. Detach your lens for an artistic macro look

If you’re bored of getting the same macro look over and over again, then this DIY macro photography hack is for you.

It’ll help you capture photos with brilliant light leaks, like this:

macro-photography-DIY-hacks

If you’re familiar with the concept of freelensing, it’s like that, but with a twist.

Here’s how you do it:

Choose a backup camera body and a cheap camera lens in the 50mm range. (There’s a slight risk of exposing your camera sensor to dirt.)

Focus your lens to infinity.

Then turn off your camera, and detach the lens.

Next, turn the camera back on, and pull the lens just slightly away from the camera (it should still be detached!).

This will actually magnify your subject, while often giving you some amazingly artistic light leaks.

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

And while the technique may require a bit of experimentation, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick, and you’ll capture some gorgeous macro photos.

5. Use fairy lights for amazing background bokeh

Here’s your final DIY macro photography hack (and it’s one of my favorites):

Use fairy lights for gorgeous macro backgrounds. They’ll get you photos like this:

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

To start, grab a set of fairy lights on Amazon (for around 10 dollars). I recommend a neutral or warmer color.

Go out to shoot around dusk, when the light is really starting to fade.

Find a nice subject, and position the fairy lights directly behind it. You can dangle them from surrounding vegetation, or you can hold them with your left hand.

Now, you don’t want to position the fairy lights too close, or else you’ll capture the wiring in your photos. Instead, you want them to show some nice bright light without being prominently featured.

You should also make sure to use a shallow aperture, in the area of f/2.8 to f/5.6. That way, the fairy lights will be fully blurred, creating some stunning bokeh.

The trick is an easy one, but it’ll get you amazing macro photos!

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

DIY macro photography hacks for stunning macro images: Conclusion

You’ve now discovered five DIY macro photography hacks.

And you can use them for stunning macro photos all the time.

So go ahead and start. Make your black board. Grab yourself some fairy lights.

And take some amazing macro photos!

Do you have any DIY hacks of your own for beautiful macro shots? Share them in the comments!

 

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

The post 5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

The post What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

If you spend any length of time within one photography genre, you come to the point when you wonder, what would take me to the next level?

Deepening your creativity often means making connections between unlikely things.

If you want to deepen your photography, one option is to take what you learn from one genre and apply it to another. Could you find something used in portrait photography and apply it to landscapes? How about taking an approach from birth photography and applying it to real estate photography?

Let’s explore the idea of combining approaches from different photography genres.

Street and landscape photography combined

I had been out taking some landscape photos when I saw these canoes. A photo of the canoes on their own wasn’t working out for me. But when I saw this child come walking by it gave me an idea. I thought of all the street photos I had seen of people walking past interesting objects or backgrounds. For the fun of it, I adopted that concept here. I love the way the boots echo the yellow canoe.

What Portraiture can teach us about Landscape or Nature Photography

I’m a portrait photographer. What I love about portraiture is exploring the way people express their hidden selves through their body. You can see expression and gesture in feet, hands, and faces.

If you love to photograph nature and landscapes, you can take this concept of gesture (something we normally look for in people or animals) and apply it to your nature photography.

The more I focus on gesture in people, the more I see it in nature as well. Consider what Jay Maisel has to say in his book, Light, Gesture, and Color:

“Gesture is the expression that is at the very heart of everything we shoot. It’s not just the determined look on a face; it’s not just the grace of a dancer or athlete. It is not only the brutalized visage of the bloodied boxer. Neither is it only limited to age, or youth, or people, or animals. It exists in a leaf, a tree, and a forest. It reveals the complicated veins of the leaf, the delta-like branches of the tree, and when seen from the air, the beautiful texture of the forest.”

I believe something like gesture is what we’re after when playing with lines in a photo or even slow shutter speeds. Look at nature through the lens of gesture, and you’ll be more creative in your nature photography.

Low angle photo of a tree suggesting gesture.

When I looked up at this tree, it was the gesture of the branches that drew me in. It takes decades for those branches to get there. Though they’re holding perfectly still, there is the feeling of gesture because of their shape.

Flower photo with gesture.

I love to play with light. While photographing these flowers, a little lens flare struck my view. It’s very subtle, but on the right side of the photo, you can see a faint burst of warm light. It’s as if the flowers are reaching for the light.

What Wedding Photography can teach us about Food Photography

I’m not a food photographer, but if I photograph a wedding or event, I try to include a photograph of the dinner. Couples pay a lot for their meal, so why not add a photo? The problem is a stark white dinner plate full of food looks lifeless and uninspiring among all the other wedding moments. There was a disconnect between my candid event photography and my attempt at food photography.

Weddings are about writing a new story; joining families and sharing life. But I discovered that there is just as much of a story in the food as there is in the rest of the wedding. When I was able to chat with a chef as she prepared food for the guests, I came to learn how much she loves her craft. There is as much heart in the preparation as there is in the sharing of the meal.

So I began to photograph the meal just like I did the rest of the wedding. I took the heart of what I had been pursuing in all those candid wedding photos and applied it to photographing the food.

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What Birth Photography and Real Estate Photography can teach us about each other

I can’t imagine two genres more opposed than birth photography and real estate photography.

If I tell a friend that I photographed a house for a real estate agent, they don’t care. They assume it’s just something boring I do for money. But when my wife tells people she photographs births, their jaws hit the floor and a passionate discussion ensues.

For most people, maybe photographers too, real estate photography is a boring necessity while birth photography is an exciting adventure. After all, one of those life experiences is about drama, emotion, and new beginnings, while the other is a series of appointments and paperwork until the ordeal is over.

Yes, but which experience is which?

Have you ever bought or sold a house? Then you know there is plenty of drama and emotion involved. Have you ever had a baby? Then you know there are plenty of appointments and paperwork. Both experiences – home-buying and having babies – are filled with the potential for adventure and emotion.

Try taking the obvious emotional excitement of birth photography and applying it to real estate photography. When you force yourself to flip everything on its head, you might see something quite different.

Many families have a negative birth experience. They’re treated like a commodity by their doctors and the hospital staff. A birth photographer knows that even if a laboring woman is given a bad experience by hospital staff, the photos still have to portray the unique beauty of the experience.

Even though real estate photography may often feel like a commodity, it can be a beautiful part of the story. First-time homebuyers are on an amazing life journey. Perhaps there can be more spontaneity and emotion in real estate photography than we first think – even if it’s hard to represent in typical real estate photos.

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My wife, Naomi, made these birth photos. I love to see the range of emotion and depth of personality in her photos. But they certainly make my real estate photos look dull.

different-photography-genres

different-photography-genres

 

Real estate photography

I know that my real estate photos are part of a larger story and every once in a while I have the chance to photograph that story. Sometimes that comes by being able to photograph the move-in day.

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

 

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What Street Photography can teach us about Newborn Photography

If you’re tired of posing newborn photos, street photographers can be your guide. They are masters of spontaneity – taking whatever moments the situation gives to them. Street photographers are explorers of society. As a newborn photographer, you can be an explorer of human nature in newborns.

Wait and see what that baby will do. Take what the newborn gives you rather than forcing your vision and poses on them. There is nothing wrong with posing, but it can be exciting to explore other moments that happen naturally.

Newborn photography

Do you know all those adorable photos of newborns wrapped in beautiful fabrics and placed in baskets? Well, this is the reality; a screaming newborn and bewildered older brother. Take the moments that come to you.

Think beyond your genre of photography

When you want to deepen your creativity as a photographer, begin with the principles of the genre of photography you’re working within. When you’re ready to go even deeper, go beyond the principles of your genre and consider what different photography genres might teach you.

 

different-photography-genres

The post What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits

The post 10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits

Portraiture is as vast a genre of photography as it is rewarding. There are a lot of ways to go about creating portraits with a lot of visual interest, but one of the most satisfying ways to do this (to me anyway) is to create emotive portraits. Being able to capture your subjects showing emotion (whether that be positive or negative) not only allows you to show your viewer a more human aspect of your subject, but it can also help create compelling and arresting imagery. This article provides you ten tips to help you with your create emotive portraits. Some of these tips are technical, but most of them, perhaps unsurprisingly, focus on how you interact with your subjects.

1. Concentrate on the gesture

When you’re photographing emotion, it will be helpful to consider what information you need in your frame. If your subject is smiling, crop in close on the head and leave all other information out. The space in your frame is valuable, and you want to ensure that you get your message across clearly. Unneeded information (such as things in the background or body parts that are not involved in the gesture) serve only to detract from the focus of the image.

create-emotive-portraits

By cropping in closer, the emphasis of the composition is placed on the gesture of the expression, leaving nothing to distract from it.

That said, pay attention to your subject’s body language. If they are gesticulating with their arms as part of the expression, be sure to include that in your frame as it will help to complete the expression.

2. Keep the lighting simple

Image: Basic lighting techniques work well when trying to capture emotion. A lot of the time, you do...

Basic lighting techniques work well when trying to capture emotion. A lot of the time, you don’t need more than one light and a reflector.

Just like in a lot of other walks of life, less can definitely be more in emotive portraiture. By keeping your lighting simple, you are controlling how much information is in the frame. Just like the first tip, this is about ensuring that your viewer’s attention is placed squarely where you want it to be.

The lighting pattern that you choose will likely depend on what emotion you are trying to convey. For bright, happy emotions, you may opt for something like butterfly lighting. You also might choose to use a lot of fill light. For darker emotions, like sadness, more dramatic light such as that provided by short lighting is a fantastic tool that provides many shadows and can add tons of mood to your images.

3. Communicate clearly

Image: Before you even start a shoot, explain to your subject as clearly as possible what you want f...

Before you even start a shoot, explain to your subject as clearly as possible what you want from them. If you need to, show them examples.

Assuming you are staging your portrait session rather than taking candids, you will want to very clearly communicate with your subject exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve. Be specific and avoid vagueness. If you tell someone to be happy, you might get that generic smile that everybody gives a camera. Instead of happy, try saying something along the lines of: “I’m looking for genuine expressions of joy. I want you to imagine that you’ve just got a new puppy.” You’ll find this kind of thing works well very often as you almost always evoke genuine emotion from someone.

If the puppy doesn’t work, feel free to substitute it with anything that might. Kitten, baby, chinchilla, motorcycle; it doesn’t matter as long as it works.

4. Genuine rapport

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Having a good rapport with your subject will often give you more subtle and genuine expressions.

To get the very best and most authentic expressions out of your subjects, you will want to build a genuine rapport with them. Be nice, be polite, let them talk about themselves, show them the back of the camera, joke around (appropriately) and develop a light-hearted banter (if warranted, not everyone appreciates it).

Also, try to keep the session relaxed and stress-free. You, as the photographer, might be worried about the lighting and all of the technical things, but I think it’s vital for you to worry about your role in your head and keep your subject’s focus on their role.

5. Make your subject an actor

Image: Instructing your subjects to act out various scenarios can give you a range of images from wh...

Instructing your subjects to act out various scenarios can give you a range of images from which to choose the most natural and evocative images.

An approach that can help to elicit good expressions is to tell your subject to act rather than to pose. Still images and video are very different things, and people change their behavior accordingly. If you suggest that they should treat the session and the scenarios you give them as if you were filming, or as if they were acting on stage, you can get much more natural expressions. Better yet; book an actor if you want the very best results, and it suits your project.

6. Look away from the camera

create-emotive-portraits

One of the easiest ways to get emotion into your photos is to have your subject look away from the camera.

One of the simplest ways to help convey real expression is to make sure your subject isn’t looking directly at the camera. Instead, pick a point for them to look at and direct them to do so. Where you pick isn’t important as long as you can capture and clearly convey the emotion that you are after.

This is very useful for the more somber emotions. Sadness, longing, and thoughtfulness can all be more easily portrayed with your subject looking off into the distance. This isn’t a rule, so please don’t shoot every single shot this way unless the situation calls for it.

7. Give permission to be ridiculous

Image: Tell your subjects they can be as ridiculous as they want. It can help to loosen them up and...

Tell your subjects they can be as ridiculous as they want. It can help to loosen them up and act more natural later. Sure, there will be unusable frames, but you might just hit gold.

Many people (including those with much experience) tend to go rigid in front of a camera. Let them know that they can act ridiculous. Moreover, encourage them to act as ridiculous and exaggerated as possible. This will help them to loosen up, and it will also help to lighten the mood of the session. Having your subject’s pull funny faces is a good way of cutting through the seriousness of a photoshoot.

Another trick that I sometimes use (it doesn’t work on everyone) is to get someone to fill their cheeks with air and then blow out as hard as possible.

If they’re open to it, it almost always results in fits of laughter.

8. Have a set of techniques that provoke reactions

Image: Blurting out random words and photographing the reactions can lead to fantastic results.

Blurting out random words and photographing the reactions can lead to fantastic results.

There are a lot of tips on how to provoke reactions from people. My favorite is to blurt out random words and photograph the reactions. To do this, just say a different word in-between frames. It could go something like alpaca, cheeseburger, dunce cap, or giant mushroom. Feel free to adjust your words based on the person you are working with.

Again, it doesn’t work on everyone, and you may have to switch to another technique.

If you know your subject well enough, you could always show them some funny pictures or memes on your phone. Just be sure that whatever you show them matches their sense of humor or you might ruin the rest of your shoot.

9. Give food for thought

create-emotive-portraits

Try giving your subject a specific scenario to think about for a few frames. This works well across the board, no matter how happy or sad you want them to act.

Instead of strings of random words, you can give your subject a specific thing to think about. This works well for all manner of emotions, whether that be happy or sad. I recently worked with an actor, and she introduced me to the sentence, “Imagine a badger eating spaghetti.” For laughter, I don’t think I’ve come across anything that works better.

For sadder emotions, I suggest (from experience) avoiding being too specific. If you say something along the lines “Imagine the loss of a pet” and they recently lost a pet, it’s really not going to go down well.

Instead, ask them to imagine feeling a loss and let them think about whatever it is that comes to mind. Remember, when trying to capture negative emotions, you will generally have no idea what’s going on in your subject’s life. While you want to capture an emotion, it’s not usually a good idea to put your subject through unnecessary emotional turmoil. Please try to be respectful of that and the people you work with.

I know of a lot of wonderful photo projects that exist to document the rawest emotions in people (Sam Taylor Wood’s “Crying Men” is easily the best photography exhibit I have ever seen). I am not saying “don’t do that” if that’s your goal. However, do be explicit with your intentions to your subjects, and do ask them if there’s anything they would rather you not touch on.

10. Outtakes

Image: Don’t forget to take a look at your outtakes from any given shoot. They are usually the...

Don’t forget to take a look at your outtakes from any given shoot. They are usually the most spontaneous and natural shots of all.

During a normal portrait session, outtakes can often be seen as a fun extra. However, when you’re creating emotive portraits, it’s the outtakes where you might find the most genuine expressions. Don’t forget to give them a look through once you have the photos on the computer. You may find that a spontaneous outtake has given you exactly what you were after.

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Seriously, the world needs more outtakes.

That’s it

Sometimes getting your subjects to react the way you want and then to convey those emotions well in your photographs can be a challenge. With these ten tips, you hopefully have a few more tools in your belt to make that process easier. These are just a handful of things that can help; however, and there are plenty of other techniques out there.

If you have tried and tested methods, or things that you say to subjects to provoke expression, please add it to the comments below.

 

create-emotive-portraits

The post 10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Steps For Better Product Photography in Natural Light

The post Steps For Better Product Photography in Natural Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Taking photos of products can seem like a daunting task. If you look at a lot of advertising, you will find yourself inundated with a lot of high-end product photography that can seem (and probably is) out of reach for a novice. The thing is, not all product photography is equal. In many cases, a much simpler approach will do the job just fine.

This article will guide you through a process that can get you started taking product photos with minimal equipment. In these examples, you don’t even need a studio, just a backyard, and decent weather. You will also see that you can replace some dedicated kit (reflectors and diffusers in this case) with some basic and cheap substitutes.

What you need

With one optional exception, you will only need some basic kit to go through the process outlined here.

Camera – There’s not much to say about this one. You will need a camera.

Lenses – To get the best results you will want to choose a lens with a close focusing distance (if your products are relatively small) and a focal length that will give you the option to fill the frame.

If the products that you are photographing are quite small, you may want to opt for a macro lens. Fast lenses aren’t much of a concern here as you will want to choose an aperture that ensures complete focus on all parts of your subject.

Tripod – Because this is still-life photography, you absolutely should use a tripod. The reason should become clear as this tutorial progresses, but it will make your life so much easier.

An outdoor space – As for the where, all you need to get started with this tutorial is an open outdoor space. Even a small backyard will do. Anywhere that will lend you a decent, clean background will do.

Tissue paper – In lieu of a dedicated diffuser, you can use tissue paper. For ease of use, you can mount this in a frame of some description with clips or a bit of tape. This allows you to control and manipulate the natural light in your photos. I did use a dedicated diffuser in this tutorial, but tissue paper will work just as well.

White and black card (foamcore works well) – Use these as reflectors and flags respectively to give you further control over the manipulation of the light.

Backgrounds (optional) – Using the environment as a background will be fine a lot of the time, but sometimes you may need something different.

Don’t want to rely on what’s there? Bring your own backgrounds, such as these purpose-made boards or use plain colored paper. The choices are endless.

Color Management – Depending on what you are photographing and whom you are creating product photography for, color management may be optional, or it may be a legal requirement.

Tools like the ColorChecker Passport are indispensable for getting accurate colors in your images.

Even if it’s not necessary for your situation, it’s still a good idea.  The word ‘product’ implies that you are selling something. Even if you’re only creating an eBay or Facebook Marketplace listing, ensure an accurate representation of what you are selling. It is a means of treating the people you are selling to with respect. If you’re providing commercial services to a paying client, then that accurate representation of the product may be a legal requirement. Do your research and find that out before you get started.

Note: While you can use tissue paper and foamcore to great effect, I still believe you should buy a 5-in-1 reflector or two. These give you access to white and silver reflectors, diffusers and flags. Godox sells one for $15, so there’s no excuse. You can also use 5-in-1 reflectors as a background in a pinch.

Getting started

With your gear collected, this process is relatively straightforward.

Step 1: Find a space

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Finding a space that gives you plenty of room to work and gives you a decent background may be the most important step in all of this.

As long as you are photographing small(ish) objects, where you choose to set up isn’t very important. Since the focus of your image is solely the product, other elements like the background won’t be taking up very much space in your frame in most cases. As long as you can find a space that gives you a clean background (or somewhere to place your own) and gives you plenty of room to work, you will be fine.

If you are working with small objects at a close distance to the camera, work with small apertures like f/16. If you want an out of focus background, you will want to ensure there is a good distance between your subject and the background.

Without going into the math, the closer your camera is to the subject, the shallower the depth of field becomes. When you are really close (especially with macro lenses), the focal plane reduces to a tiny sliver. To combat this, use small apertures.

In terms of lighting, as long as there is light, you will be fine. If you have all of the equipment listed at the top of this article, you will be able to manipulate the light in most situations.

Broad daylight? No problem. Shade? No problem. Any time of day will work except for the night where you would probably need to add an external light source of some description.

Step 2: Set up

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As this spot was lit by direct sunlight, I put the diffuser up before doing anything else.

Now that you are in your space, pick where you want to set up and decide where you are going to photograph your product. Place your camera on a tripod and ensure that you have a good idea of how you are going to frame your product.

You can now evaluate your lighting. If you’re in open daylight, setup the tissue paper as a diffuser over where your product is going to be. You can fine-tune this later, but any diffusion you may be using should be in place before you start anything else. Diffusion material is going to affect the color of your images. Having it in place allows you to see the light as it’s going to appear in your photos while you are working on your composition.

Step 3 – Color Management

better-product-photography-3

With the light diffused, take your steps towards color management. You want to do this before placing your subject to avoid moving it.

If you are opting to replicate accurate colors, do it now. Place your grey card (or whatever tool you’ve chosen) where your product will be under the exact lighting conditions that your final images will be created with. Take a photo of the card. If you’re setting the white balance in-camera, do it now. If you’re using a tool like the ColorChecker Passport shown in the example images, you can save it for the software later.

Step 4: Place your subject

Place your subject where you want it for your desired composition. Once that’s done, you can begin modifying the lighting. (This image is with the diffusion panel removed)

The next step is to place your product in situ for the composition that you want. Adjust the subject and the positioning of the camera until you have your desired effect. I find it is important to get this right at this stage. With this done, you are free to adjust everything else (such as the lighting) while being able to compare any test shots. It also allows you to blend multiple exposures later (providing it would be permissible to do so).

Step 5: Choose your aperture

better-product-photography-2

Details are essential when you are selling something. The image on the left is shot at f/4 and you will see many of the details are concealed by depth of field. In the right-hand image, all details are present, but the background is less obscured.

With products, most of the time, you will want to choose an aperture that provides maximum focus on the whole of the subject. Since the depth of field is most affected by the distance of the camera from the subject, small objects close to the camera (particularly with a macro lens) will lead you to use much smaller apertures than you might typically use in other situations. If you need to, take a few test shots at various aperture settings. Review the results until you have the desired effect. Depending on your camera, you may find the depth of field preview button useful here as well.

Shooting tethered is also a great way to be able to see if there is enough depth of field in your images.

Step 6: Evaluate the lighting

Here, the subject is lit with unmodified light. You can see that the contrast is high and there is missing detail in both the shadows and highlights.

With everything in place, you’re just about ready to go. Here is where you can fine-tune your lighting to your heart’s content.

Adding the diffuser above the subject helped to even out the exposure between the background and the subject. All details are now present.

Reflective

Use your white card(s) to fill in any shadows that may be providing too much contrast in your images. The beauty of using a card is you can cut it into any size and shape to match any need you have so that you are only reflecting where the extra light needs to be. For the most part, you are going to want to avoid heavy contrast in product photos, so feel free to use reflectors generously.

A bit of white mount board at camera left has filled in that side of the subject just a tiny amount. It makes the exposure evener.

Subtractive

In the event that there’s light falling on your subject where you don’t want it, use your black card as flags. For example, if the main source of light is coming from behind your subject, you can use a flag to shape that light so that it is only falling on your product where you want it. You can also use flags to darken areas around your subjects, such as the surface it is resting on, to put more emphasis on the product itself.

Introducing a flag to camera right has darkened that side of the subject. It has increased contrast just a bit and reduced the impact of the specular highlight on the droid’s head.

This step may seem optional, and to be fair, it pretty much is, but if you want your images to stand out, this is by far the most important step. The more attention to detail and effort you place into getting the lighting right, the better your photos are going to be.

It pains me to suggest that you could to move your camera at this point. However, as a last resort, if you’re having problems controlling the contrast in your images, you can set your camera to spot metering mode and evaluate where your reflectors need to be from there.

That said, if your light is suitably diffused, you shouldn’t have to resort to that. Alternatively, you could use a second body or a light meter if your subject is big enough.

Step 7: Final shot

better-product-photography-1

The final image with minimal post-processing.

With all of the prep work done, you can now take your final shot. If all has gone well, you should have a well-lit, well-exposed image in the composition of your choice. Going through all of these steps should also mean there is very little to do in terms of post-processing.

That’s it

Is this the only way to take photos of products? Absolutely not. It’s not even close to the only way to do things outdoors. This is just one easy method to help you get results with minimal gear.

Hopefully, you’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t need a fully decked out studio and a myriad of specialist and obscure equipment to achieve better product photography results. Basic equipment, basic camera craft and attention to detail can take you a long way and get you results that will help you to sell whatever it is you are trying to sell.

 

better-product-photography-natural-light

The post Steps For Better Product Photography in Natural Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

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.

7 Techniques for Original (and Stunning) Nature Photos

The post 7 Techniques for Original (and Stunning) Nature Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to capture original nature photos?

The kind of photos that are both stunning and unique?

You can.

While capturing original nature photography might seem hard, it doesn’t have to be.

Because there are a few simple tricks that you can use…

…which will help you create original photos, consistently.

And it’s not about finding new locations.

It’s not even about finding new subjects.

Instead, it’s about looking at the subjects you have in a completely different light.

Let’s get started.

1. Use unusual lighting for surprisingly dramatic shots

For a long time, I felt like my images were frustratingly similar. I couldn’t find any new compositions. I couldn’t create the kind of magic I wanted. I felt like I had hit a wall.

Until I discovered the power of directional lighting.

Now, directional lighting is something that most photographers are familiar with. You get directional lighting when the sun is low in the sky – so that the light hits your subject from a particular direction.

If the light hits your subject from the front, it’s frontlight. If your light hits your subject from the side, it’s called sidelight.

But while frontlight and sidelight are nice enough, they pale in comparison to the power of backlight.

(Which is the type of light that completely changed my photography.)

Backlight comes from behind your subject. If you want a backlit photo, you should make sure that your subject sits between you and the sun – and then point your lens at your subject.

What’s so great about backlight?

Backlight allows you to capture intense, dramatic light. It allows you to create a contrast-heavy photo, one with a beautiful background and a detailed subject.

However, you want to be careful not to create a silhouette. If you underexpose the photo too much, the subject will lose all its detail, leaving you with nothing but a bright backdrop.

So here’s what I recommend:

Point your camera at your subject. And then crouch down so that the sun moves behind the bulk of your subject. If you can block the sun, you’ll reduce the background brightness. And you’ll be able to capture some nice detail in your subject while giving the overall shot some gorgeous background light.

One more tip:

It can be useful to let the sun fall through a background object. If there’s a tree in the background, angle yourself so the sunlight falls through the tree. This will create some spectacular bokeh.

And it’ll take your nature photos to a whole new level.

2. Shoot from strange angles for a completely new perspective

Shooting from new angles is a classic method for capturing original photos.

That’s because it works. Really, really well.

Of course, you don’t want to use the same new angles, over and over again. That will just cause you to fall into a cycle of creating similar photos once again!

Instead, try to find a new angle for every subject you photograph.

I’m a fan of getting down low, and I recommend you try it, too. Crouching, crawling, or even lying on the ground is a great way of opening up more intimate perspectives.

And more intimate perspectives can make for stunningly original images.

Another tip is to make yourself feel disoriented. Try lying on the ground, looking up at your subject. Or try climbing high above your subject, so that you’re shooting straight down.

These particular angles are just starting points. Take them and make them your own. Experiment as much as possible.

That’s how you’ll capture original photos.

3. Apply creative techniques for unique takes on a subject

Another easy way to produce original nature photos is to add something new to your photography arsenal. Something you’ve never tried before.

One way to find these techniques is to look at photographers in other genres. What are they doing that you like? What’s creative about their work? Is there something that you can take from their photos and apply to yours?

I’ll mention just a few creative techniques here. These will give you a sense of the possibilities of nature photography. And they’ll also open up new shots for you, right now.

First, one of my favorite creative techniques is freelensing. This involves detaching the lens from your camera and tilting it in different directions for a tilt-shift style image.

Freelensing will give you some striking images filled with shallow depth of field, gorgeous bokeh, and stunning light leaks.

Second, I recommend trying intentional camera movement photos (or ICM). ICM photos are beautifully abstract and impressionistic.

To capture amazing ICM photos, simply set your shutter speed to something low (in the 1/2s to 1/20s range). Then experiment with moving your camera when you take the photo.

If you persevere, you’ll soon be taking some amazing images!

Third, you should try the ‘shooting through’ technique, also known as ‘cramming.’

Find a subject – then change your angle so that you’re shooting through something in the foreground. This is generally vegetation, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you can create a shallow depth of field, you’ll blow the foreground into a beautiful wash of color. And you’ll capture some highly-unusual nature photos.

4. Create abstracts of your subjects for something impressively different

One thing I love about abstract photography?

It forces you to see your subject in a whole new light.

And that’s why abstract photography is perfect for creating fresh perspectives of a subject.

But this leads to the question:

How do you actually create stunning abstracts?

I have a few tips:

First, get close. For abstract photos, closer is almost always better.

Two, try to think in terms of shapes and lines, rather than subjects. Compose while keeping these geometric elements in mind.

Third, be careful not to underexpose your photos. It’s easy to do this with close-up abstract photography because you lose light as your lens focuses closer. So make sure to compensate for this possibility.

Finally, use your viewfinder a lot. Move your camera, and watch as the composition changes.

And when things start to look really good…

…take your shot!

5. Switch lenses for a fresh focal length (and fresh feel)

Sometimes, all we need to do for a fresh perspective…

…is switch lenses.

After all, you probably use the same lens for your nature photography pretty often. I know that I have a few lenses in my kit that I use regularly.

And this can cause you to get comfortable with your photography. You might struggle to find new images.

So switch lenses. And make the switch as big as possible.

If you’ve been shooting flowers with a long lens, try using something very short. If you’ve been shooting landscapes with a short lens, try to go for something long. And if you’ve been shooting birds with an ultra-telephoto, why not try something that shows far more of the environment?

Whenever I try this technique, it works wonders. The completely new perspective feels wonderfully fresh – and I get photos that I really love.

6. Find a photo you like and take something different

This technique is a tricky one.

If you can do it correctly, you’ll capture stunning original images. But if you approach it without much motivation, you’ll end up creating something boring and derivative.

Here’s how it works:

Start by finding some nature photos you like, but that were taken by other photographers.

Then recreate those photos. Recreate the setup, the composition, everything.

Finally, make three major changes to the shot.

The changes can be anything: settings, lighting, composition, and more. The point is to create a shot that’s radically different from the original, but that still captures the magic that the original possessed.

You can even use some of the techniques from elsewhere in this article. Add in a bit of ICM. Use a wildly different angle.

You’ll ultimately capture an original image. An image you can be proud of.

7. Shoot until you can’t shoot anymore, then keep shooting

Here’s one final technique for original nature photos:

Find a subject. Then photograph that subject as you normally would, taking all the obvious photos.

But then, once you’ve run out of easy ideas…

Keep going.

Keep taking photos.

And keep trying to innovate. Keep trying to find new nature images.

At first, you’ll struggle. You’ll think there’s nothing more that can be done.

But then you’ll start to have new ideas. Your mind will open up.

And that’s when you’ll get some of your most original photos!

Techniques for original (stunning) nature photos: next steps

Capturing original nature photos can be really, really tough.

Or, at least, it might seem that way.

But the truth is:

Anyone can take original nature photos! As long as they know a few simple tricks.

So as long as you follow the techniques laid out in this article…

…your nature photography will be gorgeous, stunning, and – above all – original!

Got any more tricks for original nature photos? Be sure to share them in the comments!

 

original nature photos

The post 7 Techniques for Original (and Stunning) Nature Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

If you’ve been to a great aerial fireworks display, I’m sure you’ve heard the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd, captivated by the colorful spectacle. Here in the United States, the Independence Day holiday is when many of us try our hand at fireworks photography.  I’m sure if you live in other places in the world, you also have holidays celebrated with fireworks.  So how can you capture those moments in a photo and elicit those same “oohs” and “ahhs” from your viewers and achieve better fireworks photos?

Include a landmark, city skyline, or something in your fireworks photo to add interest, place, and story. This is a show over the Boise, Idaho Depot.

Great fireworks photos aren’t difficult, but you will not get them in Auto mode.  You will need to put a little thought into this and learn to take charge of your camera controls.  Try these simple tips, however, and I’ll bet you’ll come back with images that elicit “oohs,” “ahhs,” some likes, and maybe even “wows” from your viewers.

Here are the things we’ll cover for better fireworks photos:

  1. Location
  2. Equipment
  3. Camera settings
  4. Shutter speed choices
  5. Using Bulb mode
  6. Shooting technique
  7. Boom Zoom Bloom FX
  8. The “Black Hat trick”

After you’ve read this article, and made your fireworks photos, be sure to read Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

1. Location

You can make good fireworks photos with just an image of the colorful bursts in the sky. But great fireworks photos need something more – an interesting setting or foreground.

Think of displays you have seen taken with fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbour, the Chicago city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.  What makes those shots over the top?  A couple of things;  iconic city skylines and landmarks, and most often, water.

Not only are there interesting things in the shot besides the fireworks themselves, but often with water in the shot, there’s the benefit of colorful reflections.

If you are lucky, the spot where you plan to photograph your fireworks display will also have interesting foreground features and perhaps a body of water.  If so, scout the area ahead of time so you can find a location to best capture those things.

You can pretty much count on a crowd at a fireworks show. Get there early to stake out your spot. Then consider including the location in some of your shots.

You can count on a crowd when you go to a fireworks show.  Plan on getting to your spot early so you can “stake your turf.” Perhaps put out a blanket to ensure an unobstructed view of the show.  Then, if you have no other foreground elements, consider the possibility of making the crowd your foreground, their heads silhouetted against the sky and fireworks.

Another possibility might be to find a less obvious location, not right where the fireworks will be launched.  Perhaps there is a landmark, a tree-line, a high vantage point, or some other spot that will create an interesting foreground that while still including the fireworks, will give context, place, and “story” to your photos.  Doing some scouting long before the night of the show is a good idea.

The first few fireworks of the show will be in clearer sky conditions. As the show continues, smoke may be more of an issue and the sky won’t be as dark with the fireworks lighting the smoke.

2. Equipment

What will you need to make good fireworks photos? Let’s break down the basic equipment needs:

Camera

You can make fireworks photos with a cellphone camera if that’s all you have. However, the techniques will be different and the results likely not as impressive.

We won’t get into that here, so let’s assume you have a better DSLR or mirrorless camera with the option for manual control. Be sure to have a good-sized storage card, as well as a spare battery or two, as you’ll usually take lots of shots at a fireworks show.

Tripod

Fireworks photography will require a steady camera as you’ll be shooting in low light and taking longer exposures. Consider a tripod pretty much mandatory for this kind of work.  An L-bracket on your camera or at least a tripod that will easily allow going from landscape to portrait mode easily is a good thing too. Often you will shoot in both aspects.

Lens Selection

Lens choice largely depends on how close you will be to the fireworks launch location.  If you are really close, you may need a wide-angle to keep the larger bursts in the frame. If, however, you are a long distance from the show or want to compress the apparent distance between your foreground object and the sky bursts, a telephoto might be in order.

I typically use my go-to lens; a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS as it covers a good range. You don’t need a particularly fast lens as you will be working with mid to small apertures and longer shutter speeds. Still, a sharp lens is always a good thing.

Cable Release/Remote trigger

The technique for photographing fireworks will be discussed in a minute, but trust that having a way to remotely trigger your camera will be a real help. One reason is you are presumably going to a fireworks show to enjoy the show.  Having your eye to the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter button the entire time will lessen  the enjoyment of “being there.” It will also introduce camera shake, something you don’t want.

A very basic remote release can be had for under $10.00 US. This is a great item to always have in your bag for many purposes.

The tree line at the bottom of the frame adds some additional interest.

3. Camera settings

If you’ve always worked in Program or one of the Auto modes with your camera, or even if you use Aperture (Av/A) or Shutter (Tv/S) mode, this will be the time to be brave and go to full Manual mode.

Here’s how you want to set up your camera for fireworks photography:

Raw Mode

Real photographers shoot in Raw mode. There are many articles why. If you never have done so before, here’s your chance to try it. You can work in Raw + Jpg if that makes you feel more secure. However, I’m betting you won’t use the .jpg versions.

Full Manual

As described. Be brave. You can do this.

White Balance

As you’re using Raw mode, (you are, yes?), white balance can be tweaked later so it doesn’t matter much what you set for shooting. I tend to leave my white balance in Faithful mode almost all the time.

Sometimes it’s fun to zoom in tighter and get the flurry of action.

Low ISO

Working in low light with dark or black backgrounds and long exposures will tend to introduce noise in your shots. Fortunately, the fireworks are bright, so higher ISO settings won’t be needed.  Instead, use the minimum (ISO 100 on many cameras), and you’ll be fine.

Noise Reduction Off

Many modern cameras have a noise reduction feature, which after the first exposure, takes a second “black frame” exposure, detecting the noise and then subtracting that from the initial exposure. It can work well, but…

The second exposure takes as long as the first, and if you’re making multi-second exposures (for example, that 6-second exposure now takes 12 seconds to finish), your camera will be busy working, and you’ll be missing subsequent fireworks.

Turn it off.  You’ll be using a low ISO with minimal noise anyway, and the delay in being able to make more shots isn’t worth it.

Aperture

There are two things to consider here:

  1. How much depth-of-field do you need?
  2. What is the “sweet-spot” of your lens?

First, because the fireworks will be a good distance from your camera, you will be focusing on something further away and likely have a pretty good depth of field. Working at wider focal lengths helps too. Plan on being at your location well before the show starts and have an idea where you’ll need to focus and how much depth of field you need.

Secondly, most lenses are at their sharpest between f/8 and f/16.  Learn where your lens performs best, the so-called “sweet spot,” and use that aperture if you can.

Most of the photos in this article were taken at the same show. Also, most were very close in their exposure settings such as this one at ISO 100, 10-seconds at f/8.

4. Making shutter speed choices

Your choice of shutter speed will be important in capturing good fireworks photos. You know when you hear the boom of the launched fireworks from its mortar that it trails up into the sky, explodes, and a beautiful shower of colorful sparks radiates out and trails down.

Often multiple fireworks are launched close together, each doing the same thing. What you’re after is to capture the entire event which can sometimes take several seconds.

You could pick a fixed shutter speed of, say, four seconds, but would that be too short? Too long? Of course, it depends on the individual firework duration or sequence you want to capture, and that will vary during the show.

So how do you choose?

The answer is, you don’t have to because there’s a better way.

better fireworks photos

Using bulb mode you will be able to hold the shutter open and capture multiple fireworks bursts, closing it when you like.  Note this shot is in portrait orientation.

5. Use Bulb mode

If you’ve seen pictures of early photographers with their view cameras, you might have noticed them holding a rubber “bulb” which when they squeezed, forced air through a rubber tube and tripped the shutter. As long as the photographer kept the bulb squeezed, the shutter stayed open, ending when they released it.

These were the first shutter remotes, and it was that rubber bulb that gave the mode its name.

Today we have wired, and sometimes wireless triggers that can do the same thing. Putting the camera in Bulb mode allows a variable shutter speed. As long as we press and hold the button, the shutter stays open.  Let it go, and the shutter closes, ending the exposure.

This is just the ticket for fireworks photography, a variable shutter speed.

So, let’s review our basic camera settings:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Raw Capture
  • Manual Mode
  • Noise Reduction Off
  • Auto Focus Off – Focus on the anticipated fireworks spot and lock focus there
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR/IS) Off
  • ISO 100
  • Approx. f/8 – f/16  (Use aperture and ISO to adjust if images are too bright or dark).
  • Bulb mode
  • No flash – I forgot to mention this one.  Rarely, (unless perhaps to light a foreground object), will you ever need to use flash when making fireworks photos.  Also, consider whether others are nearby watching the show.  Using flash is guaranteed to make you less-than-popular with other fireworks spectators.  Unless you are alone and have a good reason to use flash, (in which case I will assume you know what you’re doing), just don’t use it.

Set up like this, you’re good to go. Remember, once the show starts, you will be busy. If you are fooling with camera settings, you’ll be missing shots. You will want to try some variations, but you don’t want to have to struggle and miss the show.

Be ready, think it through beforehand, and when the show starts, start clicking.

6. Shooting Technique

You’ve set your camera up on a tripod, figured out where to point it, made sure to pre-focus on a distant spot and locked the focus by putting it in Manual Focus (MF) mode.

If you leave your camera’s Autofocus on it’s almost guaranteed to give you images that are a bust rather than a boom. Against the dark sky and the moving fireworks the focus will hunt, fail, and… it’ll just be bad. Don’t do it.

Often the best images can be made right when the show starts as later, smoke from the previous fireworks becomes thicker, and the fireworks more obscured. So, when you hear that boom of the first firework going up, click and hold the button on the remote. You’ll be in bulb mode so hold it open while the firework goes up, explodes, and radiates out.  Then release the trigger.

Now, quickly check your shot. Is it in focus and framed properly? Is it exposed correctly? If it’s too dark, increase the ISO a click or perhaps open the aperture a stop. Too light? Do the opposite.

Try not to spend too much time doing this as, of course, the show will continue without you.

If you’re in the ballpark, the ability to edit in raw gives you the tweaking room you need. The two unrecoverable mistakes you might make would be to have things out of focus or have the highlights so blown out as to be unrecoverable. Editing won’t save you if you do those things, so be sure the focus is good and if you’re not sure with exposure, underexpose a bit. Some fireworks will be much brighter than others – especially a multi-burst or the finale. So quickly check your histogram and be sure you’ve not clipped the right (highlights) side.

Make any tweaks you need and then keep clicking. Vary the zoom if you need to, but if anything, frame a little “loose.” You can always crop in tighter later. However, if that really big and spectacular burst is so big it goes out of the frame, you’ll have missed it. Try both some portrait and landscape orientation shots. Perhaps reframe to get different things in the shot, especially if you are including foreground elements.

If things are going well, it’s going to be a fairly long show.

And if you’re feeling frisky, you might be ready for some more advanced techniques.

Note how the bright pink burst appears here, thicker streaks at the base of each trail growing thinner at the tip. This uses what I describe as the “Boom Zoom Bloom” technique described.

7. “Boom Zoom Bloom” FX

You may have seen those photos where the bursting fireworks look more like a flower, fat blurry trails with sharp points.  How is that done?

Here’s the technique, which you can vary for different results.

Know this takes practice, and luck plays a big part. So decide if you have already got enough necessary shots before you try it and whether the show will last long enough for some experimentation.

If you’re game, here’s how you do it:

  • You will need your hands free for this, and you’ll want to look through the viewfinder or perhaps use Live View, so using the remote release probably isn’t going to work. Instead, set your shutter speed for about 8-10 seconds, leaving all the other camera settings where they were.
  • With your hand on the focus ring, remember your hand position there. Then turn the ring so things are out of focus.
  • Just as the firework explodes, click the shutter and smoothly turn the focus right back to the focus point you memorized.  You have the time of the preset shutter speed to accomplish this.  If you finish early, that’s okay.
better fireworks photos

Two other images using the defocus-to-focus technique. Also note how some of the bursts, captured after the focus was performed but before the shutter closed, don’t show the same look combining two looks in one photo.

Now, try different things with subsequent shots. Go from focused to unfocused, zoom in or out during the exposure, or maybe take the camera off the tripod and move it during the exposure to make light trails. Play and see what you like.

Just remember, the duration of the show is limited, so try some experiments but also be sure you have some solid “keepers.”

8. The Black Hat Trick

I have to confess, I’ve not personally tried this but the concept is sound and could be fun. (I’ve always wanted to do a “hat trick.”)

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • Have a hat, a black one or preferably of something dark enough to be opaque. You will also need to be working in an area that is quite dark.
  • Put the hat over the front of the lens.
  • Have the camera in Bulb Mode and just before the firework launches, click open the shutter locking it open with the remote.
  • Quickly, but gently so as not to bump the camera, remove the hat while the firework explodes.
  • Leave the shutter open and carefully replace the hat. Repeat, removing and replacing the hat for multiple fireworks bursts. (You may need to have a smaller aperture or lower ISO to do this as you will be building up exposure brightness with each additional firework added).
  • Unlock the remote and close the shutter when you’ve done all you want.

What you’re doing is making a multiple-exposure image in-camera. This should work. Of course, there’s also a way to do it in post-processing.  For that, and some other tips on how best to process you fireworks photo, come back for Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

There may be a frenzy of fireworks at the show finale. Keep the shutter open and capture it all if you can without overexposing.

Light the fuse

I hope you’ve decided that good fireworks photography is easy and go and have fun with it.  It’s one more way to enhance your camera skills and make some exciting images.

If there’s anything that’s a problem it’s that good aerial fireworks displays are seasonal in most places and if you really catch the bug, you may find there are not enough opportunities to practice.

So, find out when and where the shows will be near you, mark your calendar, do some scouting for the best locations, “light the fuse” and have fun!

Post your best shots as images in the comments – we’d love to see them.

 

8 tips for better fireworks photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

If you’ve been to a great aerial fireworks display, I’m sure you’ve heard the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd, captivated by the colorful spectacle. Here in the United States, the Independence Day holiday is when many of us try our hand at fireworks photography.  I’m sure if you live in other places in the world, you also have holidays celebrated with fireworks.  So how can you capture those moments in a photo and elicit those same “oohs” and “ahhs” from your viewers and achieve better fireworks photos?

Include a landmark, city skyline, or something in your fireworks photo to add interest, place, and story. This is a show over the Boise, Idaho Depot.

Great fireworks photos aren’t difficult, but you will not get them in Auto mode.  You will need to put a little thought into this and learn to take charge of your camera controls.  Try these simple tips, however, and I’ll bet you’ll come back with images that elicit “oohs,” “ahhs,” some likes, and maybe even “wows” from your viewers.

Here are the things we’ll cover for better fireworks photos:

  1. Location
  2. Equipment
  3. Camera settings
  4. Shutter speed choices
  5. Using Bulb mode
  6. Shooting technique
  7. Boom Zoom Bloom FX
  8. The “Black Hat trick”

After you’ve read this article, and made your fireworks photos, be sure to read Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

1. Location

You can make good fireworks photos with just an image of the colorful bursts in the sky. But great fireworks photos need something more – an interesting setting or foreground.

Think of displays you have seen taken with fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbour, the Chicago city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.  What makes those shots over the top?  A couple of things;  iconic city skylines and landmarks, and most often, water.

Not only are there interesting things in the shot besides the fireworks themselves, but often with water in the shot, there’s the benefit of colorful reflections.

If you are lucky, the spot where you plan to photograph your fireworks display will also have interesting foreground features and perhaps a body of water.  If so, scout the area ahead of time so you can find a location to best capture those things.

You can pretty much count on a crowd at a fireworks show. Get there early to stake out your spot. Then consider including the location in some of your shots.

You can count on a crowd when you go to a fireworks show.  Plan on getting to your spot early so you can “stake your turf.” Perhaps put out a blanket to ensure an unobstructed view of the show.  Then, if you have no other foreground elements, consider the possibility of making the crowd your foreground, their heads silhouetted against the sky and fireworks.

Another possibility might be to find a less obvious location, not right where the fireworks will be launched.  Perhaps there is a landmark, a tree-line, a high vantage point, or some other spot that will create an interesting foreground that while still including the fireworks, will give context, place, and “story” to your photos.  Doing some scouting long before the night of the show is a good idea.

The first few fireworks of the show will be in clearer sky conditions. As the show continues, smoke may be more of an issue and the sky won’t be as dark with the fireworks lighting the smoke.

2. Equipment

What will you need to make good fireworks photos? Let’s break down the basic equipment needs:

Camera

You can make fireworks photos with a cellphone camera if that’s all you have. However, the techniques will be different and the results likely not as impressive.

We won’t get into that here, so let’s assume you have a better DSLR or mirrorless camera with the option for manual control. Be sure to have a good-sized storage card, as well as a spare battery or two, as you’ll usually take lots of shots at a fireworks show.

Tripod

Fireworks photography will require a steady camera as you’ll be shooting in low light and taking longer exposures. Consider a tripod pretty much mandatory for this kind of work.  An L-bracket on your camera or at least a tripod that will easily allow going from landscape to portrait mode easily is a good thing too. Often you will shoot in both aspects.

Lens Selection

Lens choice largely depends on how close you will be to the fireworks launch location.  If you are really close, you may need a wide-angle to keep the larger bursts in the frame. If, however, you are a long distance from the show or want to compress the apparent distance between your foreground object and the sky bursts, a telephoto might be in order.

I typically use my go-to lens; a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS as it covers a good range. You don’t need a particularly fast lens as you will be working with mid to small apertures and longer shutter speeds. Still, a sharp lens is always a good thing.

Cable Release/Remote trigger

The technique for photographing fireworks will be discussed in a minute, but trust that having a way to remotely trigger your camera will be a real help. One reason is you are presumably going to a fireworks show to enjoy the show.  Having your eye to the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter button the entire time will lessen  the enjoyment of “being there.” It will also introduce camera shake, something you don’t want.

A very basic remote release can be had for under $10.00 US. This is a great item to always have in your bag for many purposes.

The tree line at the bottom of the frame adds some additional interest.

3. Camera settings

If you’ve always worked in Program or one of the Auto modes with your camera, or even if you use Aperture (Av/A) or Shutter (Tv/S) mode, this will be the time to be brave and go to full Manual mode.

Here’s how you want to set up your camera for fireworks photography:

Raw Mode

Real photographers shoot in Raw mode. There are many articles why. If you never have done so before, here’s your chance to try it. You can work in Raw + Jpg if that makes you feel more secure. However, I’m betting you won’t use the .jpg versions.

Full Manual

As described. Be brave. You can do this.

White Balance

As you’re using Raw mode, (you are, yes?), white balance can be tweaked later so it doesn’t matter much what you set for shooting. I tend to leave my white balance in Faithful mode almost all the time.

Sometimes it’s fun to zoom in tighter and get the flurry of action.

Low ISO

Working in low light with dark or black backgrounds and long exposures will tend to introduce noise in your shots. Fortunately, the fireworks are bright, so higher ISO settings won’t be needed.  Instead, use the minimum (ISO 100 on many cameras), and you’ll be fine.

Noise Reduction Off

Many modern cameras have a noise reduction feature, which after the first exposure, takes a second “black frame” exposure, detecting the noise and then subtracting that from the initial exposure. It can work well, but…

The second exposure takes as long as the first, and if you’re making multi-second exposures (for example, that 6-second exposure now takes 12 seconds to finish), your camera will be busy working, and you’ll be missing subsequent fireworks.

Turn it off.  You’ll be using a low ISO with minimal noise anyway, and the delay in being able to make more shots isn’t worth it.

Aperture

There are two things to consider here:

  1. How much depth-of-field do you need?
  2. What is the “sweet-spot” of your lens?

First, because the fireworks will be a good distance from your camera, you will be focusing on something further away and likely have a pretty good depth of field. Working at wider focal lengths helps too. Plan on being at your location well before the show starts and have an idea where you’ll need to focus and how much depth of field you need.

Secondly, most lenses are at their sharpest between f/8 and f/16.  Learn where your lens performs best, the so-called “sweet spot,” and use that aperture if you can.

Most of the photos in this article were taken at the same show. Also, most were very close in their exposure settings such as this one at ISO 100, 10-seconds at f/8.

4. Making shutter speed choices

Your choice of shutter speed will be important in capturing good fireworks photos. You know when you hear the boom of the launched fireworks from its mortar that it trails up into the sky, explodes, and a beautiful shower of colorful sparks radiates out and trails down.

Often multiple fireworks are launched close together, each doing the same thing. What you’re after is to capture the entire event which can sometimes take several seconds.

You could pick a fixed shutter speed of, say, four seconds, but would that be too short? Too long? Of course, it depends on the individual firework duration or sequence you want to capture, and that will vary during the show.

So how do you choose?

The answer is, you don’t have to because there’s a better way.

better fireworks photos

Using bulb mode you will be able to hold the shutter open and capture multiple fireworks bursts, closing it when you like.  Note this shot is in portrait orientation.

5. Use Bulb mode

If you’ve seen pictures of early photographers with their view cameras, you might have noticed them holding a rubber “bulb” which when they squeezed, forced air through a rubber tube and tripped the shutter. As long as the photographer kept the bulb squeezed, the shutter stayed open, ending when they released it.

These were the first shutter remotes, and it was that rubber bulb that gave the mode its name.

Today we have wired, and sometimes wireless triggers that can do the same thing. Putting the camera in Bulb mode allows a variable shutter speed. As long as we press and hold the button, the shutter stays open.  Let it go, and the shutter closes, ending the exposure.

This is just the ticket for fireworks photography, a variable shutter speed.

So, let’s review our basic camera settings:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Raw Capture
  • Manual Mode
  • Noise Reduction Off
  • Auto Focus Off – Focus on the anticipated fireworks spot and lock focus there
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR/IS) Off
  • ISO 100
  • Approx. f/8 – f/16  (Use aperture and ISO to adjust if images are too bright or dark).
  • Bulb mode
  • No flash – I forgot to mention this one.  Rarely, (unless perhaps to light a foreground object), will you ever need to use flash when making fireworks photos.  Also, consider whether others are nearby watching the show.  Using flash is guaranteed to make you less-than-popular with other fireworks spectators.  Unless you are alone and have a good reason to use flash, (in which case I will assume you know what you’re doing), just don’t use it.

Set up like this, you’re good to go. Remember, once the show starts, you will be busy. If you are fooling with camera settings, you’ll be missing shots. You will want to try some variations, but you don’t want to have to struggle and miss the show.

Be ready, think it through beforehand, and when the show starts, start clicking.

6. Shooting Technique

You’ve set your camera up on a tripod, figured out where to point it, made sure to pre-focus on a distant spot and locked the focus by putting it in Manual Focus (MF) mode.

If you leave your camera’s Autofocus on it’s almost guaranteed to give you images that are a bust rather than a boom. Against the dark sky and the moving fireworks the focus will hunt, fail, and… it’ll just be bad. Don’t do it.

Often the best images can be made right when the show starts as later, smoke from the previous fireworks becomes thicker, and the fireworks more obscured. So, when you hear that boom of the first firework going up, click and hold the button on the remote. You’ll be in bulb mode so hold it open while the firework goes up, explodes, and radiates out.  Then release the trigger.

Now, quickly check your shot. Is it in focus and framed properly? Is it exposed correctly? If it’s too dark, increase the ISO a click or perhaps open the aperture a stop. Too light? Do the opposite.

Try not to spend too much time doing this as, of course, the show will continue without you.

If you’re in the ballpark, the ability to edit in raw gives you the tweaking room you need. The two unrecoverable mistakes you might make would be to have things out of focus or have the highlights so blown out as to be unrecoverable. Editing won’t save you if you do those things, so be sure the focus is good and if you’re not sure with exposure, underexpose a bit. Some fireworks will be much brighter than others – especially a multi-burst or the finale. So quickly check your histogram and be sure you’ve not clipped the right (highlights) side.

Make any tweaks you need and then keep clicking. Vary the zoom if you need to, but if anything, frame a little “loose.” You can always crop in tighter later. However, if that really big and spectacular burst is so big it goes out of the frame, you’ll have missed it. Try both some portrait and landscape orientation shots. Perhaps reframe to get different things in the shot, especially if you are including foreground elements.

If things are going well, it’s going to be a fairly long show.

And if you’re feeling frisky, you might be ready for some more advanced techniques.

Note how the bright pink burst appears here, thicker streaks at the base of each trail growing thinner at the tip. This uses what I describe as the “Boom Zoom Bloom” technique described.

7. “Boom Zoom Bloom” FX

You may have seen those photos where the bursting fireworks look more like a flower, fat blurry trails with sharp points.  How is that done?

Here’s the technique, which you can vary for different results.

Know this takes practice, and luck plays a big part. So decide if you have already got enough necessary shots before you try it and whether the show will last long enough for some experimentation.

If you’re game, here’s how you do it:

  • You will need your hands free for this, and you’ll want to look through the viewfinder or perhaps use Live View, so using the remote release probably isn’t going to work. Instead, set your shutter speed for about 8-10 seconds, leaving all the other camera settings where they were.
  • With your hand on the focus ring, remember your hand position there. Then turn the ring so things are out of focus.
  • Just as the firework explodes, click the shutter and smoothly turn the focus right back to the focus point you memorized.  You have the time of the preset shutter speed to accomplish this.  If you finish early, that’s okay.
better fireworks photos

Two other images using the defocus-to-focus technique. Also note how some of the bursts, captured after the focus was performed but before the shutter closed, don’t show the same look combining two looks in one photo.

Now, try different things with subsequent shots. Go from focused to unfocused, zoom in or out during the exposure, or maybe take the camera off the tripod and move it during the exposure to make light trails. Play and see what you like.

Just remember, the duration of the show is limited, so try some experiments but also be sure you have some solid “keepers.”

8. The Black Hat Trick

I have to confess, I’ve not personally tried this but the concept is sound and could be fun. (I’ve always wanted to do a “hat trick.”)

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • Have a hat, a black one or preferably of something dark enough to be opaque. You will also need to be working in an area that is quite dark.
  • Put the hat over the front of the lens.
  • Have the camera in Bulb Mode and just before the firework launches, click open the shutter locking it open with the remote.
  • Quickly, but gently so as not to bump the camera, remove the hat while the firework explodes.
  • Leave the shutter open and carefully replace the hat. Repeat, removing and replacing the hat for multiple fireworks bursts. (You may need to have a smaller aperture or lower ISO to do this as you will be building up exposure brightness with each additional firework added).
  • Unlock the remote and close the shutter when you’ve done all you want.

What you’re doing is making a multiple-exposure image in-camera. This should work. Of course, there’s also a way to do it in post-processing.  For that, and some other tips on how best to process you fireworks photo, come back for Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

There may be a frenzy of fireworks at the show finale. Keep the shutter open and capture it all if you can without overexposing.

Light the fuse

I hope you’ve decided that good fireworks photography is easy and go and have fun with it.  It’s one more way to enhance your camera skills and make some exciting images.

If there’s anything that’s a problem it’s that good aerial fireworks displays are seasonal in most places and if you really catch the bug, you may find there are not enough opportunities to practice.

So, find out when and where the shows will be near you, mark your calendar, do some scouting for the best locations, “light the fuse” and have fun!

Post your best shots as images in the comments – we’d love to see them.

 

8 tips for better fireworks photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer

The post Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

It’s no mistake that many wedding photographers have assistants and even second shooters at weddings. The reason being is that photographing a wedding longer than 5 hours on your own can be very challenging, especially since there are many important wedding details and moments that need extra coverage.

Hiring an assistant means you have help carrying your gear and keeping distractions at bay so you can photograph the important moments smoothly.

What is an assistant?

A photography assistant is not to be confused with a second shooter. While sometimes used interchangeably, the two terms are actually different, and it’s really important to know the difference.

An assistant is an extra pair of hands available for you during the wedding day.

They may be in charge of carrying the equipment, helping with setting up additional cameras and being available for any need that the photography may have during the wedding day.

Assistants can help gather details during a wedding day and help with styling as well.

Many assistants are aspiring wedding photographers or seasoned wedding photographers. It can vary in the level of experience. This is something that you should look into while interviewing or hiring an assistant.

Assistants can also help with styling certain shots like the wedding rings, or help to gather flowers. They can also help with posing families during that portion of the wedding day.

Assistants also offer a second point of view. They offer ideas to get better shots or additional photos that perhaps you had not thought of previously. They are also helpful when you need an opinion and also someone to talk to as weddings can run up to 12 hours or more depending on how much you are covering.

What is a second shooter?

A second shooter is a second photographer. Usually, the second photographer is solely responsible for taking photos of the event alongside you, the main photographer.

A second photographer can get those in-between candid moments that happen when the main photographer is busy photographing something else.

The second shooter helps to get a different angle of the same setup. Or perhaps they can be trusted to photograph a portion of the day alone while you cover another. For example, if you’re photographing the bride and her bridesmaids, the second photographer may cover the groom and his groomsmen.

Also, if you’re photographing the bride and groom together, the second photographer can shoot from a completely different angle. This gives the final images more variety of the same moments throughout the wedding day.

Having a second photographer can get images from a different angle.

Sometimes the assistant can also be a second photographer during certain parts of the day but perhaps not the whole day. For example, you can hire a second photographer and an assistant so that the two jobs don’t overlap during the day. That way, you have both a second pair of photos taken while having someone help carry your equipment and to help you set up.

Be clear about expectations

This brings me to this very important point; be clear about expectations when you’re looking to hire an assistant. Make sure that you outline what their responsibilities are.

An assistant can help carry gear when the terrain is less than ideal for your gear to be in. Like a sandy beach near the ocean.

Perhaps you’re only looking for an assistant? In that case, be sure to outline that their responsibilities will not include photographing the event at all. They will only be there to help with setting up, carrying equipment, and helping the main photographer during the event.

If you’re looking for a combination of the two, outline that from the beginning. Make sure to advise them to bring useful equipment if you will have them use their own. Also, specify which parts of the event they will be covering. Perhaps you need them to be an assistant during most of the day but will need them to be a second photographer during the ceremony only.

Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer 5

Be clear about what your assistant should help you with. For example, posing the family or helping to fluff out the wedding dress.

Also, be aware that it is very difficult to be a second photographer and an assistant simultaneously. You will need to be very clear about what you need from the person helping you at the event.

Be a team player

All photographers work and handle their businesses differently. However, when you are photographing a wedding, it’s best to make it clear that you and your assistant are a team. You are both there to work at the wedding together.

This creates an openness for the assistant to help with styling, and to offer their opinion or aesthetic input. This can be really helpful during the wedding day. Working together rather than bossing or ordering the assistant around can be really helpful since the assistant will feel included and part of a team.

Keep in mind the level of experience the assistant may have, which can also help you immensely during the event. Most seasoned wedding photographers have, at some point, been second photographers or assistants themselves. They are eager and accommodating on wedding days. If they are seasoned pros and are helping you out, consider their input.

Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer 4

When you are hiring someone who is just getting started, it’s important to talk with them before starting the photography. State your expectations, where gear is in your bag, how you approach the wedding day, and what you’ll need from them.

Some assistants are barely getting their feet wet and may need extra coaching. If this is the case, approach them with the mindset of being a team. They will work harder for you and be more willing to anticipate your needs.

Assistant contract

It is very important to have a contract drafted for the assistant position. Too often does it happen when images get published, used, sold, or otherwise from assistants who weren’t the main photographer.

Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer 3

A contract can outline image delivery expectations if they helped photograph a portion of the event, and what their pay is to be.

The contract can help you set boundaries, and outline their responsibilities, as well as set the pay for the event. Don’t skip on this tip! All too often we hear horror stories of assistants that never returned the equipment, didn’t deliver images and got paid what was due!

Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer 2

Having a contract is good to have for all parties involved.

Payment

Even though you can hire someone who is just getting started in the wedding photography business, this doesn’t mean that you can pay them less than you would expect to be paid if you were assisting.

They give you a pair of extra hands and help you for hours carrying most of your equipment, so pay them accordingly. Some more seasoned wedding photographers may have a going rate. However, it’s good to research your area for the going rate, either hourly or a set rate for the entire event.

Take into consideration the following:

  • The amount of time they will be hired to assist
  • Will they also be using their photography skills to photograph certain parts of the event?
  • Will they be using their own equipment or your own? If they are using their own equipment, then factor that into the payment.
  • How much will they be carrying in equipment?
  • Milage, gas, or extra costs

If the assistant will be there with you during the dinner portion of the event, make sure you let the bride and groom know. That way, they will know you have an assistant also eating at the wedding, even if it’s a vendor meal. If they aren’t going to stay for dinner, make sure you state what meals you’ll be covering or if you will be paying for their meal at all.

An assistant can help make a first look go smoothly by helping with positioning the bride and making sure to be available to switch lenses, cards, batteries, etc.

It’s also really important to state how the assistant will be getting paid. Will they be paid by bank transfer, deposit, invoicing, or any other method? That way they know when and how they will be getting paid for assisting at the event.

Having an assistant makes you a better photographer

The reason to have an assistant at a wedding is that it ultimately makes you a better photographer. It frees you up from carrying your equipment so that you can focus on taking important photos rather than checking to see if your camera bag is within reach.

Assistants can help with lighting, adjusting extra cameras, or even helping style the bride’s veil during the portraits. Having an extra pair of hands makes it easier for you to focus on getting the shot without having to do it all on your own.

Also, having someone there to help with making sure that the wedding photography goes smoothly and quickly will help you to focus on what really matters – getting the shot.

Moreover, having someone to talk to during the long wedding day can help you stay focused and in the present moment.

In Conclusion

Hiring an assistant during a wedding event can help you be free to really focus on photographing each and every special moment of a wedding day.

They can help by carrying your equipment, be a teammate and help with lighting or offer ideas. An assistant can be an extra pair of hands and eyes during the day too.

Have you hired an assistant before? If so, what additional tips would you include?

 

Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer

The post Why Hiring an Assistant at Weddings Makes you a Better Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

5 Photography Rules for Capturing Photos Your Audience Will Adore

The post 5 Photography Rules for Capturing Photos Your Audience Will Adore appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

It’s hard to stand out as a photographer.

These days, you have so many photos to compete against; the internet is drowned in smartphone snapshots (with layer upon layer of filters).

So how do you create images that cut through all the noise? How do you create art that will truly stun your audience?

5 Photography Rules for Capturing Photos Your Audience Will Adore

In this article, you’ll discover 5 simple photography rules for capturing photos – which will ensure that your photos are truly special.

Let’s dive right in, starting with…

1. Do everything you can to emphasize your subject

If you want to capture photos that stand out, then this is your number one rule:

Pick a subject. Something that stands out in your photo. Something that acts as an anchor point.

And make that subject stand out as much as you can.

You see, it’s your main subject that actually captivates people. The rest of the scene exists to enhance that main subject.

But how do you enhance your main subject?

Start by making sure that your main subject is extremely sharp. Make sure it’s the sharpest part of the photo, in fact.

And make sure that your main subject has some color. Color draws the eye!

Third, make sure your main subject is bright and well-exposed. A dark subject (especially if it’s surrounded by a dark background) just won’t work. If you do include a dark subject, then make sure that the background is extremely bright.

On a related note, more contrast is nearly always better. If you can incorporate some ultra-dark tones and ultra-light tones in your photos, your photo will instantly improve. Ideally, your background and your main subject will contrast heavily.

Last, keep your background as clean as possible. It doesn’t have to be completely uniform but should be simple and well-organized. When in doubt, go for a monochromatic background, such as black, white, or green.

2. Use complementary colors to make your photos pop

You already know how important it is to include contrast.

But there’s a special kind of contrast that deserves its own mention:

Color contrast.

Color contrast refers to the addition of colors that sit opposite one another on the color wheel (also known as complementary colors).

You’re probably familiar with color contrast, even if you don’t know it. We see complementary color pairs all the time: red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple.

Now, color contrast is perfect for creating stand-out photos. It catches the eye, and it practically forces viewers to look more deeply.

One thing to note, however, is that you shouldn’t use too many contrasting colors. I recommend simply including two complementary colors (and potentially a third non-complementary color). If you incorporate too much contrast, the photo will become too powerful, and the colors will start to clash.

I also recommend you limit the amount of the complementary colors that appear. If you have two complementary colors, include a lot of one color, and a little of the other. This will prevent the photo from overpowering the viewer.

Finding contrasting colors might seem difficult. But with a little effort, you should be able to incorporate a contrasting color pair.

And you’ll love the effect!

3. Use negative space to stun viewers from a distance

Negative space is emptiness in a photo.

By this, I’m referring to empty sky, empty water, or even an empty background – it all counts as negative space.

And negative space is extremely valuable, for a few reasons.

First, it gives the main subject some breathing room.

It also makes compositions feel calm and more stable (which is generally nice to have in a photo).

But the best thing about negative space is that it is a place where the eyes don’t rest – thereby directing the viewer straight to the main subject.

So here’s what I recommend:

When you’re deciding on a composition, incorporate at least some negative space into the photo. If you can, create a lot of empty space – but even a little space will go a long way.

It’s best if the negative space exists around the main subject. That way, attention is immediately directed to the focal point of the photo.

But any negative space is good!

4. Include leading lines to draw in the viewer

I’ve talked a lot about emphasizing the main subject of your photos.

This is because the most striking photos hit the viewer over the head with their subject. They pull the viewer in and direct them through the frame – right to the focal point.

That’s the mark of a powerful photo.

And here’s another great way to emphasize your subject:

Use leading lines. Include them whenever you can.

Leading lines are lines that draw the viewer through the frame. They can be anything vaguely line-like: A river, an outstretched arm, even a flower petal.

Whenever you find a photo-worthy scene, search for leading lines. And incorporate them into your composition. Ideally, the leading line moves toward your subject. But you can also include leading lines that take the viewer around the frame.

Most scenes have some sort of leading line. You just have to look hard enough!

5. Always shoot in the best light you can find

Out of all the rules in this article, I think this one will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Because it’s so easy to shoot in the best light – you just have to know what the best light is.

And once you know this…

Your photos will never be the same. Seriously.

So, what is the best light?

The best light is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, known as the golden hours.

These are the times when the sun is low in the sky, and casts a golden glow over the landscape. If you shoot during the golden hours, your subject will be bathed in beautiful light. And you’ll absolutely love the images you capture.

Now, there are other times when the light is good, depending on your genre of photography.

If you’re a street photographer, you should try shooting during the middle of the day, when the light is sunny.

If you’re a flower photographer, you should try shooting when the sky is heavily overcast.

If you’re a portrait photographer, you should also try working on overcast days.

But even though these types of light do work…

…the golden hours are perfect, without fail. They’ll always get you something wonderful.

Photography rules for capturing photos your audience will adore: conclusion

Standing out in the crowded field of photography is a difficult task.

But if you apply these simple photography rules, you’ll have a much, much better chance.

So take these rules to heart, get out, and start shooting!

Excitement awaits.

Have any more rules for capturing photos that your viewers will adore? Share them in the comments!

 

5 photography Rules for Capturing Photos Your Audience Will Adore

The post 5 Photography Rules for Capturing Photos Your Audience Will Adore appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

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