When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon?

The post When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Moon phases are a key to understanding when you should be out taking photos. These days it’s easy to predict where and when you will see the moon for the type of photos you want to produce.

First let’s start with some tools you might want to look into, then options for different moon phase photos.

Tools

Astronomers have known the secrets of the moon’s phases and timing for eons. Ancient civilizations built monuments and shrines in regard to locations of the sun, moon and stars long before computers were invented. Our modern tools are a little easier to access.

Newspapers and Websites

Not into learning full astronomy? My first suggestion is to Google the phase you’re looking for. It’s that simple. One of the top sites that will appear in the results is Time & Date. You can find all the phases of the moon, based on the location of your Internet connection, right here. If the location isn’t correct, simply search for your city and the site will give you all you need to get started.

Another great option (that also has an app, but it is so much better on a large computer screen) is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). I wrote about using TPE here on DPS and they have a Web App available for those who don’t use phones and their apps.

The US Navy has a simple site that allows you to print out a year’s worth of times for any location on the planet.

Don’t have an Internet connection while you travel? Newspapers still print the information for the moon and sun phases (as well as setting and rising times).

Apps

Everyone loves a good app, and there are three that I keep loaded on my phone for photography purposes. All of these apps will show you the angle of the moon at any time, its phase, and some even help you calculate the best time to photograph the moon.

Full moon over Washington’s Cascade Mountains

My choices are:

Catching the Full Moon

The best time to photograph the full moon is the day before or after a full moon. Why’s this?

A full moon is marked at the height of its path across the heavens and this is often after midnight. Let’s say the moon reaches the height of its fullness at 12:26 am on July 2nd. This means the full moon actually rises on the day BEFORE that which is marked on the calendar. Throw in use of Daylight Saving Time and the timing can be wonky.

Full moon rising above Washington’s Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound

Going out the day before the moon is actually marked as full means you’re catching the moon rising just about at the same time as the sun is setting. So the sun is lighting the moon and often the foreground of your scene. This gives a nice, even lighting to your scene.

The same can be said for shooting the full moon setting the day it is marked on the calendar.

Late at night, you can still capture great images of the moon. However, you have to understand that the contrast difference between the moon (a giant reflector in space) and the black sky will be immense. This means you will lose detail in the moon if you attempt to hold the shutter open long enough to exposure the foreground. Some creative light painting can come in handy in this case.

Full moon and chorten with the Himalayas in the background. Mong La, Nepal

Half/Quarter Moons – Daytime wonders

Some people call them half-moons because half of the moon is illuminated. Some call them quarter because they are at the quarter phase of a full cycle. Either way, they look the same.

Half-moons will rise or set in the middle of the day. It matters on whether the moon is waxing or waning, meaning if it is getting closer to full or further away in its cycle. This is a good time to use an app or Astro calendar to plan ahead.

You’ll be best served by catching a half moon when it is rising or setting, just like with a full moon. Having it closer to the foreground subjects will help it appear larger. Let me give you an example.

Here’s the half moon rising in Canmore, Alberta, Canada just behind the Rocky Mountains.

Half moon and the Canadian Rockies

Nice and large when using a long lens and the moon is close to the ground. It is fairly high in the sky here as I am looking way up at the mountain.

Now, here are two examples with a nearly half moon over Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and another of it over Seattle, Washington.

See the issue? It’s still a half moon, but later in its cycle, when it is far from foreground objects, it is relatively small and loses some grandeur.

Slivers or Crescents

Slivers, or crescents, are visible just before and after a new moon. Look for them a couple of days before and after the new moon and, just like full and half, try to find a time when they are low on the horizon.

Crescent moon setting over the Himalayas

You will also notice the sliver will seemingly rotate as it crosses the heavens and this may affect your composition choices. As with the half moon, you will have even more trouble giving the moon prominence in a mid-day shoot when it is high in the sky.

Lunar Eclipses

Lunar eclipses are all the fashion these days with this or that news source touting, “This will be the last blah, blah, blah for decades!”  But don’t let them fool you; lunar eclipses happen often enough – about once a year. However, their location can be the biggest issue. Let’s go back to Time & Date’s site for more info on upcoming lunar eclipses for the next 10 years. You’ll need to click on the “Lunar” tab once on the page.

Not all of those eclipses will happen in your neck of the woods, so you’ll have to click through and see where they will happen. As with solar eclipses, when the sun is blotted out by the moon, people will often travel far and wide for lunar eclipse shots.

A full lunar eclipse, at its height, means the moon will be completely in the shadow of the Earth. Because of the distance between the Earth and moon, some light still slips past the Earth, which causes it to have all colors except red stripped away. This is why lunar eclipses are sometimes called blood moons.

Again, having a foreground subject helps because the eclipse often happens high in the sky. The whole sequence of the moon moving into and then fully out of the Earth’s shadow can take a little over an hour, and you should plan accordingly. The colorful and best ‘action’ of the eclipse will span maybe 5-10 minutes.

More tips on capturing lunar (and solar) eclipses are found in this DPS article.

New Moon or No Moon – Photograph the Stars

When the moon’s not out, it’s a great time to photograph the stars. And my, oh, my, do we have a batch of great articles to help you with that!

Conclusion

Moon photography is a fun and challenging subject because the moon is constantly changing phases and its location in the sky. Thankfully, we have plenty of tools at our disposal to track and plan for great moon photos. While full moons are alluring, try your hand at the other phases, too.

Feel free to share your photos of the moon with the dPS community in the comments below.

best time to photograph the moon

 

The post When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography

The post How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The obvious way to improve your photography is to study photography. But once you’ve had some success with the main principals of photography, you’ll be eager to go deeper and learning more photography principals won’t get you there. Rather than piling on more and more knowledge, you first need to go deeper with what you’ve already got.

journal writing for photographers

Use journal writing to pull yourself out of a rut as a photographer.

Journal writing is the best way to go deeper with your photography. Through journal writing you discover what you’re actually struggling with, hone your creative vision, and measure your growth over time.

Great minds throughout history have kept a journal of some sort. A journal is like a laboratory where you can get messy with your thoughts, vision, and creativity. You can work things out in the pages of your journal and bring them to life in the real world.

Journal writing will take you into a deeper creative mindset, helping you do far more with those photography skills you’ve learned. The problem is that many photographers aren’t sure what to write in their journal.

Here are several ways to use your journal to achieve deeper creativity with photography:

1. Don’t worry about writing well

journal writing for photographers

Allow your journal writing to be a complete wreck.

If writing well comes easily for you, then go ahead and write well in your journal. But if writing doesn’t come easily for you, do not try to write well.

You’re not writing for the sake of writing well, you’re writing to stir up your creativity and improve your photography.

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.” – William Makepeace Thackeray

2. Write to get out of ruts

As photographers, we find ourselves in a rut every now and then. We become dissatisfied with our photography, our photos don’t excite us anymore, and we begin to hate picking up the camera. If this hasn’t hit you yet, be ready. It seems to come out of nowhere, and can be devastating.

Ruts will cause you to quit unless you figure out how to get out of them. Your journal is the perfect place to do that.

At first, it will be difficult to be honest with yourself as you write. You’re always hiding what you really think from other people, and it’s rare that you actually go deep into your own thought process. But you need to be honest in order to get yourself out of a rut.

I hit a rut a couple of years ago and discovered these things about myself through journal writing:

  • I have no vision
  • Photos I love the most feel raw
  • I wish I could be a kid with a camera again
  • The idea behind a photo is more interesting than the photo itself
  • I’m so awkward when it comes to people
  • Chaotic photo sessions are my favorite
  • Unless I’m working, I don’t pick up my camera anymore
  • The things that used to excite me don’t
  • I don’t know what to say about my photos
  • Do I hate photography?

As negative as many of those thoughts sound, I learned a lot from them.

I learned that I love to explore the world with my camera. There is joy in finding a chaotic scene, looking for patterns, and then bringing some order or beauty to the scene through my photos.

Sometimes you have negative feelings for different reasons than you think. I didn’t actually hate photography, I just had blocks that I didn’t know how to get past. Once I got things out on paper, I could see what was standing in my way.

In the middle of my photography rut, I took a camping trip with friends. I decided to just follow the kids around and join in the play with my camera. Being able to do whatever I want, even exploring crazy ideas, seemed to make all that frustration and hatred of photography melt away.

simplicity in photography

To me, simple things like kids eating dirt are a joy to photograph. I included the whole door of the trailer to make him look smaller.

 

I came in close to see that he is covered in mud.

 

Finally, I pulled back and dropped to a lower angle to make the shoe mat part of the scene.

If there is something that really bugs you about your photography, or you have a vague sense of disappointment in your work, writing in your journal will help you identify your specific frustrations.

3. Track your improvement

If you don’t track your improvement, you will have no idea how you’re doing.

When you’re tracking a goal, it’s better to measure how far you’ve come rather than how far you have left to go. It can be discouraging to look ahead at how far you still have to go, but encouraging to see how far you’ve already come.

Tracking your improvement will help you to understand how far you’ve come on your journey. Many people are discouraged simply because they have no way of seeing how far they’ve come. Write it down so that you can see.

I felt stagnant with my family photo sessions so I began tracking how I felt, what went well, what went wrong and ideas that I had toward improving.

close-up

I had in mind Robert Capa’s idea, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I got as close as I could to that teeter-totter.

4. Clarify your vision

“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” – Jonathan Swift

Vision is an aspect of photography that very few people work to develop.

We can see with our eyes and organize our photo according to the rule of thirds, but how do you see things that are invisible? How do you put invisible things in your photo?

Writing in my journal helped me to see the invisible things that I already love to photograph.

Spontaneity, chaos and awkwardness are not things that you can see, though they can be expressed visually. It’s in the fleeting expression that a portrait subject gives, the unpredictable nature of toddlers, even in the ability to push through and photograph a bridezilla well.

Prior to journaling, I had no vision – after journaling (for a few months) I could finally see. My vision is about bringing order and beauty to raw, chaotic scenarios through my photography

You can take your photography to new places and new levels once you have vision. You will gain vision when you write about invisible things and can see them in front of you.

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to photograph moments like this. But “accidentally falling into the water” is just the sort of awkward moment I’m after. Anything to get out of a rut.

5. Quotes

Keep a list of your favourite photography quotes, they’re likely a clue to who you are as a photographer.

On improvement

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“If your pictures are not good enough, you are not close enough.” – Robert Capa

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” – Robert Frank

“I don’t just look at the thing itself or at the reality itself; I look around the edges for those little askew moments – kind of like what makes up our lives – those slightly awkward, lovely moments.” – Keith Carter

On portraits

“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” – Ted Grant

On the camera

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

“For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong.” – Susan Meiselas

“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” – Joe McNally

On the nature of photography

“I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” – Diane Arbus

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” – Diane Arbus

“The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself.” – Edward Steichen

“I realize more and more what it takes to be a really good photographer. You go in over your head, not just up to your neck.” – Dorothea Lange

Your favorite quotes are a clue to who you are as a photographer, and they’ll help you see that you’re not alone in your approach to photography.

A lovely moment.

 

photography quote

A slightly awkward, lovely moments.

6. Dream up the future

Dream big in the pages of your journal. While you’re at it, dream too big. After a little while of dreaming too big, you’ll be far more capable of doing those big things you never thought you could before.

You’re already working through frustrations and tracking your progress toward goals. This means that you’re learning to create the process that helps you achieve those (too) big dreams.

Maybe you’ve got this wild idea of taking a long trip and documenting your journey. You’ve got yourself fired up within the pages of your journal. But is it realistic in real life? Probably not. Can you afford it? Can you handle it? Not likely.

Go ahead and feel the frustration of dreaming too big, and having that dream start to fade away. Feel it until you realize it as a deep frustration. Now work through that frustration in your journal. Fight your way to make it real.

Thanks to my journal, I almost signed the lease on an expensive studio space. But backed out at the last minute. I had dreamed a little too big.

However, I’ve grown a lot as a photographer since then. I kept working through my frustrations and weak points. One of the problems was that I didn’t have a proper vision for the studio. So I’ve been refining my vision and building a community of amateurs and professionals whom I will share my studio with. I’m building something now that will already be alive and ready for a studio.

I dreamed too big. But now I’m quickly growing into that dream thanks to my journal.

7. Don’t write at all

Your journal isn’t only for words – put sketches in it too. Even if you can’t do it well, a basic sketch can help capture an idea you have for a photo. Don’t be concerned about buying proper pencils and a sketch pad. Just cram everything in your journal.

You might even consider printing your “sketch photos” to put in your journal. Sketch photos are the photos you take on the way to capturing your final image. Sketch photos are a way of photographing a scene in a variety of ways, making subtle changes until you get your photo just right. Sometimes the process takes a few minutes, but it could take months or years.

The perfect journal

Many people will avoid writing until they find the perfect journal. They’re waiting to find a journal that inspires them to write. Perhaps a hand-crafted, leather-bound journal with beautifully textured paper. After purchasing such an exquisite journal, they’re still not able to write. Don’t let this be you. You don’t need a nice journal, you just need to get your thoughts out (get the nice journal later on).

You don’t need to feel good to journal. In fact, journaling when you feel miserable may be more helpful. Get it out and written down. Confront it, and begin to grow as a photographer.

The perfect journal is messy, full, and always in use. And it will help you to become a better photographer.

The post How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways

The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

With a ton of options on the market, adding a ring light to your kit has never been cheaper.

Continuous photography ring lights seem to be everywhere nowadays. There are dozens of offerings from dozens of companies that you can choose from, and they are popular with photographers, make-up artists, and videographers. The main use of a ring light is on-axis lighting for an even, somewhat flat exposure.

However, what do you do if you don’t like that effect or the distinctive ring-shaped catchlight for that matter? Because these lights are continuous, and because of their size, they have more uses than ring flashes of the past. If you don’t like the straight-on effect, you don’t have to use a ring light in that way.

In normal use, you would place the light directly in front of your subject and shoot through the aperture of the light.

This article demonstrates six uses of a continuous ring light that isn’t their intended use. It will also (hopefully) show you that these relatively cheap and effective lights are useful to have for any photographer in the studio.

Normal use

While not to the taste of many photographers, ring lights can be used to create bold and vibrant images.

If you’re unfamiliar, a ring light is a circular, ring-shaped light with a large aperture designed to be placed directly in front of a subject. You then take your images by positioning your camera through the aperture of the ring.

Traditional ring flashes had the light attached to the camera. This front (on-axis) lighting provides an evenly lit image. This is one of those things that you either love or hate, but photographers who love it tend to really love it.

Versatility

With the continuous versions of these lights, you have a wealth of options with how to use a ring light. Because the light is always on, you can position it anywhere you want. With a lot of the options on the market, this gives you a high-powered, lightweight and versatile continuous light for around $100.

Because of the brightness of a continuous ring light, your subject’s pupils will be constricted, allowing you to see more of the color in their eyes.

Here’s a bonus if you’ve never used continuous lights before. Because the output is constant, your portrait subject’s pupils get constricted. This means you will see more of the color of their eyes in your photos.

Options

Below are five examples of ways you can use a continuous ring light to great effect without ever using it as a ring light.

1. As a normal light

Placed at a 45-degree angle and angled downwards, these ring lights work well as normal light source.

Despite its circular shape, ring lights are great when used as a normal light. Raise the light and angle it towards your subject to distort the effect the shape of the light has, and you can use it as a small softbox. You’re not limited to how you can light your subject this way, but I’ve found that all of the basic lighting patterns work well.

You are not limited to the shape of the ring. Use flags to block off portions of the light to shape it however you want.

If you have more than one ring light, you can use them together to create just about any two-light setup that you can imagine. If the ones you have have an adjustable output, managing your key to fill ratios should be pretty easy.

2. As a prop

Having your subject pose with the light itself can create some interesting and fun portraits. It can also help to lighten the mood during a session.

If you have an LED ring light, they don’t get very hot. Feel free to have your subject pose with the light itself for some very different images. The results will vary with ring lights of different sizes, and you have to worry about the plug and the cables, but it’s still a fun technique. Though you probably won’t use it very often thanks to its tendency towards uplighting.

3. As ambient fill

Modern ring lights are getting quite powerful and it is more than possible to use them as fill lighting in conjunction with studio flash.

You can mix any continuous light with studio flashes for some interesting effects. By using a strobe as your key light, you can then bring a ring light in for some gentle fill.

A couple of things that you will want to keep in mind is that your strobes are probably way more powerful than your ring light, so set the power accordingly. Also, you will probably want to have a ring light with an adjustable color temperature if you are going to be mixing light sources.

You could also reverse this and use the ring light as key and flash as fill. As before, make sure the power on your strobes goes down that far before committing to this.

4. As a compositional device

Putting the light behind your subject creates an interesting tool for composition. Also, it may just be me, but I love that rim light that it is producing.

In its normal use, I am a fan of creating a composition with the actual ring light framing the subject. I just like it for whatever reason. However, you are not limited to that. You can place the ring light anywhere in your frame for some cool effects. Try placing one behind your subject for a halo effect, or placing one at an angle just inside your frame for a curved band of light running through the composition.

5. Dragging the shutter

When you’re mixing a ring light with studio flash, it opens the door to some interesting techniques like dragging the shutter. Here, flash is acting as fill and the shutter speed is set to 1/15th of a second.

This is similar to using the ring light as ambient fill, but if you use your strobe normally, you can expose for the high-powered strobe and the low-powered ring light by dragging the shutter.

This technique is not for everyone, but it can produce some interesting results.

A little warning: if you’re a technically-minded photographer, you’re probably going to hate this technique, as the results tend to be a little soft. However, it can be used for some striking results. If you do like it, you still have to be careful with controlling the movement of your camera.

You do have to manage any movement in your camera while using this technique. If in doubt, use a tripod.

Because the power output on your flash is not in any way controlled by shutter speed, you can set your shutter speed as slow as you need to make this work. However, you may want to use a tripod for really slow shutter speeds. This technique can provide some cool effects in its own right, but no two attempts are going to be the same.

That’s it

There you have it. That’s six ways that you can use a continuous ring light without ever having to use it as a ring light. Considering how cheap these things are, they are a very useful tool for any photographer who wants to get into off-camera lighting but for some reason is put off by flash.

Do you have other ways that you use a ring light? Please share with us in the comments below.

 

The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Mix Lifestyle and Posed Photography Styles to Add Variety

The post How to Mix Lifestyle and Posed Photography Styles to Add Variety appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

As photographers, we take time to hone in our craft and practice many hours getting it right. When it comes to photographing people, there are two main approaches in directing clients to get the photos you want. I’ll explain the difference between both, and how to apply the two during the same session to get the most variety in the final gallery that your clients will absolutely love!

Mixing posed and lifestyle can add variety to your photos.

What is lifestyle photography?

Lifestyle photography is when you capture your clients a little more naturally than you would if you were posing them. It’s all about letting the session unfold naturally all while you photograph your couple, family, or individual being themselves.

Lifestyle can mean going for a walk through a botanical garden with your clients.

It’s also about showcasing the person in their daily life or routines too. For example, joining a family as they casually hang out at their home and bake together. Or joining a couple for coffee and a stroll through the park.

Going for coffee while you photograph your clients can also be considered lifestyle.

Lifestyle photography can be both natural or styled. Styled simply means curating the look so that even though the person is hanging out drinking coffee on their sofa, they are dressed and using items that make the photos have a cohesiveness.

Using a styled home can also offer a great location for lifestyle photos of a couple hanging out in the living room.

Much of what you see on Instagram can be considered lifestyle photography.

What is posed photography?

Posed photography is when you are directing your clients to sit, stand, and well, pose exactly how you would like them to. This gives you a more controlled and directive role in addition to being the photographer.

Directing people to pose a certain way is posed photography.

Posed photography can be really beautiful and usually lies in the editorial, fashion, or fine art styles of photography. However, posed photography can be used in every session where you want to control the final pose in your photo.

How to mix both styles to get variety

In a portrait session, it doesn’t matter if it’s family or just one person, mixing the two styles can really help add variety in the final images that you deliver to your client.

Mixing styles

When you’re starting the session, begin with posed photography because most clients are nervous at the beginning of a session. Getting them comfortable posing, and being more direct in how you want them to stand can help them to feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

The photo on the left was lifestyle, and the right is posed. Same family, same session, two different styles that add variety to the final images.

While you’re posing, show your client exactly how you want them to pose rather than merely instructing, which can get confusing.

For example, instead of saying “put your left hand on your right elbow,” you would instead go over to where they are standing and show them how you want them to put the left hand on their right elbow.

This is a quicker way to help your client visually see what you want them to do.

After you’ve posed your client enough, and they seem a little more comfortable in front of the camera, go for the lifestyle approach.

Tell your client to relax and walk around the area. If it’s a family, for example, ask them to walk and talk to each other while telling a funny joke. Make sure to keep your camera at the ready during these times. That way you can achieve photojournalistic style photos that make lifestyle so meaningful.

With children, you can capture them playing with their toys and also get posed photos during the same session.

As you go through the session, keep alternating between posed and lifestyle. You can also pose your clients, a couple, for example, so that they’re facing each other, take a few photos and then ask the couple to say one nice thing about the other.

This is a great way to transition from posed to lifestyle. You will get authentic expressions from the couple because you are putting them in a particular pose then giving them something to do that will seem natural. It’s a perfect mix of the two styles at the same time.

If you’re more comfortable with lifestyle and candid photography styles, don’t be afraid to stop your clients in mid-walk, hug, or whatever they are doing naturally to hold the pose. This is a transition from lifestyle to posed.

Mixing the two styles offers your clients more variety as well as an overall great experience. They will feel more comfortable being in front of the camera because they were allowed to be themselves while you also stopped to make sure to get posed photos as well.

Using both styles will give the session a more fluid flow and also allows your clients to have a good time during the session. This is especially important when photographing children. Letting them play and have a good time while mixing in posed photos will give them a fun experience.

In conclusion

lifestyle-and-posed-photography

Mixing the two styles, lifestyle and posed photography, will add variety to your client’s photos and will also ensure that they have a great experience without feeling stiff or uncomfortable in front of the camera.

 

The post How to Mix Lifestyle and Posed Photography Styles to Add Variety appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography

The post Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

There are a lot of lighting patterns for you to use in your portrait photography. Some of these are covered quite well. Rembrandt and butterfly lighting are two that are both easy to set up and yield great results a lot of the time. Of course, you can use just one lighting pattern all of the time and build a fantastic portfolio; however, if you want to have a full skillset with a variety of techniques to use in your portraits at any time, you will want to learn and understand as many of these lighting patterns as possible.

Broad and short lighting are often clumped together because of the similarities in how they are implemented and described, but they couldn’t be more different in how they affect your images.

This article will introduce you to the broad and short lighting patterns and explain when and why you might want to use them and what you can expect to achieve while using them. These are two very easy lighting patterns that can seem confusing at first, but once you get your head around them, they give you powerful tools to help shape the light and your subjects in your photos.

What is a lighting pattern?

First, let’s start with the very basics. A lighting pattern is any named lighting setup that gives you specific results. There is a fair list of these established lighting patterns for you to learn outside of the broad and short patterns discussed here. These include Rembrandt, Butterfly, split, cross, clamshell and more. Learning and understanding these lighting patterns can act as a shortcut to helping you get great results in your portraits. These lighting patterns apply to both natural light and artificial light, so it does not matter which you prefer.

Broad and short

The names of the broad and short lighting patterns refer to which side of the subject’s face is being lit first.

Sometimes, understanding what broad and short mean in terms of lighting can be confusing. To make it as simple as possible, imagine a face turned slightly away from you. That face now has two sides divided by the nose. The side of the face that is closest to you is the broad side because you see more of it than the other. The other side, the one that’s furthest from you, is the short side.

With broad lighting, your light is going to hit the broad side (or the side that’s closest to you) of the face first.

With short lighting, your light is going to hit the short side (or the side that’s furthest from you) of the face first.

Broad lighting

Broad lighting can be used to great effect to help widen faces or give you more contrast than some other lighting patterns.

When you choose to light the broad side of the face, it has several effects on your image. These include:

  • Broad lighting widens the face.
  • Broad lighting usually throws the short side of the face in shadow (dependent on light placement).
  • Broad lighting provides more contrast than some lighting patterns like butterfly lighting.

When you want to use it

Because broad lighting tends to broaden (go figure) the face, you’ll want to use broad lighting when you’re photographing subjects with a narrow face. Using it on subjects with a wider face can exaggerate that shape and you’ll want to avoid it there.

If there’s a feature on one side of your subjects face that you want to take the emphasis away from, you can pose your subject so that feature is on the short side of their face and use broad lighting to ensure that it’s in shadow, taking the emphasis away.

How to set it up

Setting up for broad lighting couldn’t be easier. Just have your subject turn away from the key light until you have the desired effect.

While there is no one way to set up broad lighting, here is a basic method to get you started.

As in the diagram above, place your light forty-five degrees from your subject. Ensure that you have your subject’s face posed away from the light source.

It really is as easy as that. Just remember that you can control the transition from highlight to shadow by changing the distance of the light from your subject and by using different modifiers.

Next steps

Adding fill to your broad lighting can help with extreme contrast while still retaining shadows for depth.

Lighting patterns are a starting point. This isn’t a zero-sum game. To take your broad lighting setups further, feel free to experiment with fill light. You can use reflectors or a second light to lift up the shadows and reduce the contrast in your images for more flattering portraits. Conversely, you can also choose to emphasize the shadows and the contrast for darker, bolder portraits. The best advice here is to know what result you are after before you start.

With a reflector as fill, you can now control the overall contrast in the image.

Short Lighting

Short lighting (depending on variables like your modifiers) tends to lend itself to dark, shadow-heavy imagery. This makes it the perfect lighting pattern when creating low-key images.

When you choose to light the short side of the face first, it also has several effects on your portraits:

  • Short lighting narrows the face.
  • Short lighting will throw the broad side of the face in shadow.
  • Short lighting provides heavy contrast and is ideal for low-key images. It is also useful when you are trying to create images with a lot of depth.
  • Short lighting can be used to hide imperfections.

How to set it up

Again, there is no one way to go about a short lighting setup.

Short lighting is trickier to set up than broad, but take your time and be deliberate in where the light is hitting your subject.

For this example, start with your light source forty-five degrees to your subject just like you did for the broad lighting setup. This time, have your subject face towards the light. If you have a modeling light, or you’re using natural light, watch the highlights on your subjects face carefully. Either move the light or your subject until the brightest part of your subject’s face is the short side.

Tip: If you’re having trouble seeing the contrast with your eyes, you can squint. I can’t even begin to tell you why this works, but it does. Squinting makes it far easier to see the contrast in a scene with your eyes.

That’s it. While short lighting is slightly trickier than broad lighting, it is still easy to accomplish. Once you have it figured out, it will become second nature.

Next steps

Because short lighting tends to be heavy on the shadows, you can use as much fill as you want to control them. Use a reflector for a gentle lift, or a second light to bring them close to the other tones in your images.

Since short lighting is so shadow-centric, you will almost certainly want to use fill light to control the contrast in normal situations. You can use a reflector, but if your shadows are quite deep, you may want to opt for fill light. Try exposing your fill light three stops less than your key (your main light) to retain your shadows while ensuring that all of the details are still there.

Using a reflector lifts the shadows in this example, but retains enough contrast for depth.

End matter

There you have it; two basic, but powerful lighting patterns that you can use to create bold dynamic portraits. I encourage you to go out and practice with each of these set-ups. Experiment liberally with your distances between your light and subject and try as many different fill lighting techniques that you can come up with. Once you have the basics down; if you want a real challenge: use the short lighting pattern to create a high key image.

 

The post Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively

The post How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Wedding days aren’t just about the bride, even though it might seem that way. As photographers we must also take photos of the groom by himself and with his groomsman buddies – whether they like it or not.

Posing the groom alone

When posing the groom alone you often see stiffness and shifting eyes because most men don’t feel  comfortable having their photo taken. So it’s worth starting a conversation that has nothing to do with the wedding to relax them and settle their nerves.

Find a nice background where you can photograph the groom at three different crops: full-body, half-body, and close-up. These three crops will add variety to your portraits, and give you more options when choosing the best portrait to deliver to your clients.

For example, window lighting can add dimension and depth while the groom is adjusting his tie or watch, or buttoning his shirt. Have the groom look out the window, or at his watch or tie. This keeps his hands busy, and because he’s not looking at the camera he won’t feel as vulnerable.

When you’re outside you can have the groom lean on a wall, or simply stand in the middle of a walkway. To help him pose naturally, tell him to stand as if he was by himself and not getting his photo taken.

Also, remind him to breathe. The stiffness is often caused by the groom holding his breath. It will also help him relax his shoulders and overall stance.

Photographing the groom at three different crops is a great way to add variety to the final images.

If the groom usually puts his hand in a pocket, have him put the one furthest from the camera into his pocket. This can help make the portrait feel more natural. Having the groom look at various points beyond the camera (to the side, behind you, or even at his shoes) can reduce the nerves and stiffness, and make him feel more comfortable.

As you’re taking the groom’s portraits, feel free to joke around, talk about things they like, or simply compliment them. This can make them feel more comfortable and bring about natural smiling and laughing, as well as fill in the silence.

Sitting is another great way to pose the groom. Have him sit on steps, a short wall or a chair. It will make the groom feel less stiff, and allow you to focus on various details of his outfit such as his shoes or socks if he chose something special.

Portraits of the groom while with the bride

But the groom doesn’t have to be completely alone in his portraits. A beautiful portrait of the groom with his bride can isolate him while placing him in the overall story of the wedding day.

Pose the couple facing each other, and ask the bride to place her head on his chest or arm to bring her face out a little. Then have her close her eyes while you direct the groom to look at the camera.

Another great portrait is having the groom at a 45-degree angle, with the bride behind him. Ask her to put her head on his back/shoulders, and have him look either directly at you or off into the distance.

He doesn’t have to smile. He can even look a little more serious. But the big picture will still look romantic and show that the couple is sharing a special moment.

You can move the groom and bride from there and create variations where the groom is:

  • in focus
  • in the forefront
  • looking directly at the camera
  • the main focal point in the photo.

These will all make great portraits of the groom and help him pose with his bride.

Groomsmen

Groomsmen are really fun to photograph. Most of the time they’re buddies and will joke around a bit, which can make for great candid photos. But it can also mean they won’t take the photo shoot seriously.

One way to get them to listen and cooperate is to let them know the faster they get through the photo shoot, the sooner they can start having fun. But don’t use this trick until you’ve captured some candids showing how they all interact, as it will be nice for the groom to have those as well.

Keep at least three different groomsmen setups in mind before photographing the wedding. You can find inspiration online and save those inspirational photos on your phone to recreate or build on them. This can save you lots of time if you’re new to wedding photography.

Try and keep the conversation light and easygoing. It will help the groomsmen relax, and you’ll get much more authentic expressions from them.

Group huddles and hugs are great icebreakers, and can lighten the mood if you feel the photos are getting a little stiff or the groomsmen are losing steam. A slow walking photo is also nice to have and having them looking at each other and talking is a great way to get them all smiling.

A staggered photo, either on a staircase or in a big area, can provide you with more varied poses for your final photos. If you have enough time, get a photo of each groomsman with the groom. Keep the photos moving by keeping the groom in the same place and having the groomsmen take turns standing beside him.

Keep everyone’s height variations in mind when taking photos of the groom with his groomsmen. Taller groomsmen may need to stand further back. If there are big height differences between the groom and his groomsmen, place those who are about the same height next to the groom, or bring the groom closer to the camera. This can help isolate the groom and make him the focal point of the photo, which is exactly what you want.

Keep everyone moving and try to get the photos done quickly. Groomsmen are usually ready for the next event pretty quickly and get sick of the camera much faster than the bride and bridesmaids.

If the groomsmen have ideas for poses, go along with them. It may be an inside joke or something that brings them closer together as buddies. And they’re usually the photos they love to remember.

Also, always ask if the groomsmen are wearing something special or have a gift from the couple – watches, socks, matching shoes, flasks, etc. These items have far more meaning when they’re photographed in the hands of those who received or are wearing them.

For example, these groomsmen all received personalized flasks from the groom, so a toasting photo was fun to create for them, along with a close-up of one of the flasks.

In conclusion

Grooms and groomsmen are fun to photograph during a wedding. But it’s best to have a few poses in mind so you can work quickly, as they often don’t like having their photos taken and may tire quickly. Keeping the mood light and fun gives them a great experience, and they’ll look back at the photos with fond memories.

dps-How-to-Pose-Grooms-and-Groomsmen-Effectively

The post How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

5 Tips for Stunning Macro Photography

The post 5 Tips for Stunning Macro Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to capture gorgeous macro photography?

Macro photography might feel like a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be. By using a few simple tricks you can capture amazing macro photos consistently.

So if you’re interested in taking your macro images to the next level, follow these five tips.

1. Simplify your macro composition’s subjects and colors

All great macro photos have a carefully chosen composition. That is, the elements in the photos have been arranged in the most beautiful way possible.

So if you want to capture amazing macro photography, you need to carefully choose your compositions, too.

And the number one rule of composition?

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Start by choosing a subject for your photo. Something that stands out – ideally the thing that initially drew you to the scene.

And once you’ve found your subject, hit your viewer over the head with it. Remove any distractions from the scene. If there are stray twigs in the background, remove them. If there’s something unpleasant in the foreground, change your angle.

The goal is to isolate your subject in every way possible. You want the viewer to know exactly what they’re supposed to look at.

But as well as removing all the physical distractions, you should also remove all the distracting colors.

A macro photo should have three colors or fewer – four if you’re really struggling. But no more than that.

Because too many colors cause chaos.

And in macro photography you absolutely need to avoid chaos.

You need to simplify.

2. Increase the subject-to-background distance for beautiful macro backgrounds

Now you understand the importance of simplifying. But it’s not just the subject of the photo you need to simplify. You also need to simplify the background.

The best macro photography backgrounds are clean, simple and uniform. They don’t take away from the subject. Instead, they complement the subject and help it stand out.

But how do you create such a simple, clean background?

One way is to increase the distance between the subject and the background, and use a very wide aperture (something in the f/2.8 to f/4 range).

Why? Because the farther the subject is from the background, the greater the aperture needed to keep everything in focus. And so at very wide apertures the whole background becomes  wonderfully blurry.

This background blur is called bokeh. And macro photographers love it because it helps the subject to stand out.

Just remember that when it comes to macro photography backgrounds, blurrier is almost always better.

So use a wide aperture, and increase the subject to background distance.

You’ll get far better shots that way.

3. Focus manually for the best macro photography detail

Do you ever struggle to nail the focus while doing macro photography?

It’s a common problem. Since you’re working at such high magnifications, the autofocus on your lens will undoubtedly struggle. And it’ll often miss your point of focus entirely.

Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround for this problem: manual focus.

Manual focus lets you change the point of focus using the ring on the lens. Twist the lens ring and the focus moves, allowing you to focus close, far away, then close again without using the lens’s autofocus.

This is extremely useful for macro photography. Even at high magnifications, you’ll be able to consistently nail the focus.

As long as you switch over to manual focus, of course.

A couple of tips:

  • Turn the manual focus ring gently. You don’t want to go at it aggressively. Instead, move smoothly.
  • If you’re struggling to lock focus on your subject, try using autofocus to get you in the general area. Then fine tune the focus with manual.

Manual focus may take a bit of practice to master. But it’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Shoot into the sun for amazing background bokeh

Now we’ve reached the fun part of this article: How to generate gorgeous background bokeh.

As I mentioned earlier, bokeh refers to a beautiful blurry background.

And here’s the thing: If you can create amazing bokeh in your macro photos you’re practically guaranteed a great shot, because it will make your shot stand out from the crowd.

But how do you capture stunning bokeh?

Here’s one simple trick you can use: shoot into the sun.

First, wait until the sun is low in the sky (early morning or late afternoon).

Next, find a subject and place that subject between you and the sun. Crouch down low so the sun is behind your subject.

Now, move around until you find an area where the sun is broken up by something – tree branches, leaves, etc. You want the sun to shine through these tree branches, hit your subject, and then hit you.

Why is this so important?

Well, broken sunlight ultimately creates the best bokeh. Those smaller pinpricks of sunlight produce amazing backgrounds.

Note: You don’t want the full sun in your frame. Otherwise the sky will be far too bright and your picture will lack serious detail. Instead, block the sunlight with your subject. If you like, let the sun peek out from behind. (In fact, this can result in some especially interesting effects.)

Bottom line?

If you can create amazing bokeh, your macro photography will be stunning. So create it whenever possible.

5. Find shade-sun combinations for gorgeous colors

Here’s a final macro photography tip for you (and one of my favorites).

If you want to create wonderful, pastel-like colors in your macro photos, use shade-sun combinations.

When the sun is low in the sky, go out looking for subjects. Shadows will be long, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding a nice subject in the shade.

Get ready to photograph that subject. But before you actually take the shot, carefully position yourself so the background of the shot is sun-drenched.

This works amazingly well, because the sunny background will be soft and golden. And golden light is amazing for bokeh.

You’ll capture photos like this:

And this:

With a bit of patience, you should be able to find many great backgrounds by using this trick.

So don’t forget to try it.

Stunning macro photography: next steps

Capturing amazing macro photos doesn’t have to be hard. You just have to know a few tricks.

For instance, you have to simplify your compositions.

You have to create beautiful backgrounds.

And you have to focus manually.

If you can do that, your macro photos will be amazing in no time at all.

We’d love you to go out and try these techniques, and share your macro photos with us in the comments below.

The post 5 Tips for Stunning Macro Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

8 Creative Ways to Photograph Trees

The post 8 Creative Ways to Photograph Trees appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

A favorite subject for many photographers is the tree. Tree’s can be found everywhere, so wherever you are in the world, you’ll have a chance to photograph them. In this article, you’ll see how adding a tree to your composition can add oxygen to your photography! So take a deep breath and learn how inspiring tree photography can be by using these seven different approaches to photograph trees.

1. The lone tree

A lone tree frames a typical landscape scene in southern England.

The lone tree alone in a field or on the brow of a hill really is a photo for the ages. It’s as strong a main subject as you’ll ever take in landscape photography. Whether you position this tree in the center of your frame or the left or right third, the photo is likely to work. The main thing is to ensure the tree is truly isolated and doesn’t have other rival trees in the frame competing for attention. The challenge, of course, is to find such a tree. In some cases, these tree’s are famous like the one at Wanaka lake in New Zealand. The chances are you’ll find a tree near where you live though.

Lens choice

The choice of lens you use may well help you isolate that tree once you’ve found it.

  • Wide angle – This type of lens works well when you want to get close to the tree, yet want to show the tree in its entirety. Through the use of this lens you might be able to create a minimalist style photo containing just the tree, the sky, and some fields where the tree is located.
  • Telephoto – When that tree is a long distance away, and is perhaps inaccessible because it’s on private land, a telephoto lens could work.Of course, make sure you’re not impinging on someone’s privacy when taking that photo. You’ll also be able to zoom in to isolate a lone tree, which is perhaps near to other trees and removing those other trees from your composition.

2. The tree tunnel

Another popular type of photo is the tunnel. These contain a strong leading line and an infinity point. They’ll also work very nicely with portrait photos, where the model acts as a foreground element in front of this tunnel. When it comes to trees, you’ll find they’re naturally good at creating tunnels. This happens when a mature tree has an arching main trunk, and branches that hand down to the side of the tree. Another place you can see a tree tunnel is a path or road that has trees on both sides, where those trees form a roof of interlocking branches. Photos of tree tunnels like this are usually more dramatic taken at longer focal lengths, where the comprehension that gives will enhance the effect of the trees creating the tunnel.

Tree lines work very well in photography.

3. The change of seasons

As with all things in nature, they’ll change with the seasons. As long as you’re not in the tropics, you’ll be able to see the change in a tree throughout the year. The most powerful way to record this is to choose one composition and photograph it for each of the four seasons. Whether that composition is a single lone tree or a path with trees along it will be up to you.

You don’t necessarily need to make your seasonal set from the same location though. You could choose to show photos of trees in the country you’re from, with clear markers that you’re in a particular country from your photos. Each scene you show can show the different seasons, and show the trees of that country.

Autumn is one of the most popular times to take photos of trees, and with good reason.

4. Applying creative techniques

There are many photography techniques out there which you can try. A lot of these techniques are adaptable to use with tree photography. Here is a selection you could try the next time you photograph a tree:

  • Silhouette – This works great with trees, especially those trees with beautiful branches that show the detail of the tree when silhouetted. Silhouettes are relatively easy to achieve. Expose for the sky, and aim towards the sky. The tree should naturally silhouette as long as you’re photographing with the sun in front of you.
  • Refraction – Another classic for tree photography involves using a lensball. Here you’ll see an inverted image of the entire tree all captured with a small glass sphere.
  • Infrared – Choose a sunny day with some clouds in the sky. You’ll want to choose the summer as well, as this technique needs green leaves on the tree. These photos can be taken with infrared filters or repurposed cameras. You’ll need to adjust the white balance in post processing. Once done, you’ll produce a beautiful dreamscape image.
  • Long exposure – The tree itself won’t benefit from long exposure. However, on days when clouds are moving across the sky, this technique looks great. The static tree juxtaposed against blurred moving clouds will work very well.

This is a slightly different take on the lone tree photo, and uses a lensball to achieve it.

5. Details photos

Having taken plenty of photos of entire trees, it’s a good idea to balance this with some detail photos. You’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to the type of photos you take here. All areas of the tree offer potential.

The following ideas can guide you:

  • Leaves – Detail photos of leaves could take different forms. You could focus on a single leaf, and produce a bokeh background behind it. You might use a macro lens and focus on all the detail the veins of the leaf give you. Photographs of leaves work very well with the sun shining through the leaf from behind.
  • Bark – The texture of bark is a natural fit for a detail photo. Look to side light the bark to get maximum texture in your photo.
  • Trunk – The trunk is not just about the bark on the tree. Focus on the root system around the trunk, and all the patterns you can find at the foot of the tree.
  • Branches – Looking up works equally well. Interlocking branches make for great pattern photos, especially when silhouetted.

One of the best places to photograph trees is the jungle. This photo show the detail at the tree trunk.

6. Portrait work

The use of trees as backgrounds for portrait photos is a popular idea. There is a good reason for that; much of which is related to the points made earlier in this article. Tree’s have the potential to form natural frames, especially where branches arch back from the trunk towards the ground. A line of trees forms a leading line, one that can draw the eye towards your model.

In the summer months, you’ll find leaves are amazing for creating a natural bokeh background for your portrait. Your model will be able to interact with the tree, perhaps mimicking the shape of the branches. There are many ways trees can add to your portrait work. So using trees for portrait work is another way to use trees creatively.

In this photo the model stands under cherry blossom trees as the petals fall down.

7. Different perspectives to photograph trees

Another way to photograph trees more creatively is to change the perspective. There are lots of angles you can use, though you’ll need to be close to the tree to utilize some of these. Take a look at the angles you could be using, and see how you can apply them to your work.

  • Low angle – Either from a distance or closer to the tree, photographing from a low angle will give you a different perspective. Foreground elements will show up a lot more in the frame, so you could place flowers in the foreground with the tree in the background.
  • Worm’s eye view – Low to the floor, but now looking up at the sky. This is a great angle when there are several trees together, and you stand in the middle between them.
  • Bird’s eye view – Should you have a way of getting an overhead photo of the tree, or a canopy of trees, this is a great angle.
  • Framing – Look for ways to frame a tree, perhaps use another tree in the foreground to frame a tree in the background.

This photo uses the branch of one tree to frame another tree in the background.

8. Wildlife photography

It goes without saying that a tree is a living ecosystem. Many living things rely on trees for life, including humans. In terms of photography, you could start small by looking for beetles in the soil, or under the bark. Leaves will also be home to a lot of smaller life such as caterpillars. So you’ll be able to get your macro lens out and explore the world of insects.

Of course, larger creatures feed on these insects, and you’ll be able to photograph them as well. You’ll find lots of species of birds, squirrels, and other animals. Photographing these is trickier, and you’ll certainly need a longer focal length. The use of camouflage gear and bird-watching huts also enhance your chance of photographing life within a tree.

In some countries the wildlife in the trees is a little bigger than a squirrel.

Conclusion

A tree is an interesting subject for a photo and has been used by photographers many times to create photography projects. In this article, you’ll have seen several methods you could use to photograph a tree.

Are there any in this list that interest you? What other approaches to tree photography have you used that aren’t discussed here?

At Digital Photography School, we’d love to see examples of your tree photography, together with your thoughts about this article.

 

 

The post 8 Creative Ways to Photograph Trees appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape

The post How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Creating amazing photos can be much easier than you think. The simplest images can be the most striking. Keeping your image simple means minimalism. In this article, you’ll learn about creating minimalist landscape photos. The creation of these type of images requires the correct use of a lens, and often the correct selection of location. Read on and find out all you need to know to create minimalism in your landscape photos.

In this photo, the main subject is the mountain in the distance. The remainder of the frame is kept simple.

The location for a minimalist landscape

Where you take your photo will determine your success with minimalist landscape photography. You’ll have more success in remote locations, but urban environments can also be used for minimalism as well.

When photographing in a busier environment, you’ll need to use the correct lens and camera angle to maintain minimalism with your photo. More remote locations naturally have a minimalist feel, but the challenge in those locations is locating a strong main subject.

The following are locations you could use for minimalist landscape:

  • Coastal – This is a great location for minimalist photography. The great expanse of the sea invites minimalism. You can further build on this by flattening the sea through long exposure. Interesting rock formations or a lighthouse can make great main subjects.
  • Deserts – Whether you’re photographing on the sand or on the ice, deserts are the land equivalent of the sea when it comes to minimalism. Vast, uniform in their features, and without the clutter of human development.
  • Mountains – Another area that is remote are mountains. These also offer opportunities to create a minimalist landscape. With too many mountains in the one scene they can also be potentially cluttered, so choose compositions with care. A lone hut surround be the green foothills of a mountain range would make for a good subject.

Deserts make excellent locations for minimalist landscapes.

The lens

The lens you choose is equally as important as the location for a minimalist landscape. There is no absolute rule over which lens to use; it depends on the location you find yourself in. If you have chosen a location in the wilderness, the chances are you can use either a wide angle or a long telephoto lens. However, if you’re photographing in the city, the lens becomes important.

  • Wide angle – A lens that works well for minimalism, as you can use that wide angle to create the nice negative space required for a minimalist landscape. Think how you can get down to a low angle for those ripples in the sand on a sand dune. In a more cluttered environment, you need to be careful though, as the wide angle could easily cause unwanted elements to appear in the frame and make it too busy.
  • Long focal length – The longer focal lengths allow you to zoom in on a particular portion of your scene. Here, the challenge is to avoid compressing too many things into the same photo. Choose an area on the horizon that’s interesting but devoid of too many extra elements. This focal length can be a big advantage in an urban setting that’s generally too chaotic for minimalism, yet has portions of the skyline that can be zoomed in on to create a minimal image.

This photo uses a wide-angle lens. This really captures the interest in the foreground from the shapes in the sand.

Adjust your perspective

Photos that are taken at eye level work well for many situations. However, when you’re looking for minimalism, changing to a new angle works wonders.

The following are good choices when it comes to simplifying your image:

  • Bird’s eye – Things looks very different from a high angle looking down. The higher you get, the more dramatic this becomes. One of the reason’s drone photography works so well is its potential for minimalism.
  • Worm’s eye – At the other extreme is the worm’s eye view looking up. You could include a small amount of the horizon line, and make the remainder of the photo about the sky. This will give you a landscape photo with a very minimalist feel.
  • Framing – The use of a frame around the landscape portion of your photo could give you a minimalist photo. The landscape itself need not be minimalist in this case, so long as the surrounding frame provides enough negative space to tick the minimalist box.
  • Lensball – A lensball, in effect, frames a landscape inside a spherical object. That allows you to take a minimalist landscape, and keep the area surrounding the ball simple. This will give your photo a minimalist edge as well.

A lensball can be used to capture a scene that’s not normally minimalist, and capture it in a minimal way.

A good main subject

Every photo type is strengthened by having a main subject. In some cases, the inclusion of that main subject can be more of a challenge. Portrait photos, for instance, always have the main subject – the person you’re photographing. Landscape photos may not always have an obvious focal point – in some cases, it’s not needed – but for most photos, it will give you a stronger image.

In a minimalist landscape, that main subject will leap out of the photo strengthened by the minimalism across the rest of the frame. So what type of object could you use for this main subject?

  • A lone tree – The classic, a lone tree. There’s a good reason for this, of course. It’s a clear focal point in an image, looks beautiful, and works well for a number of composition types. It’s also relatively easy to isolate a lone tree.
  • A single person – A lone person silhouetted against the horizon. Someone riding their bike up the ridge of a hill. Whether you decide to stage this or it was more spontaneous, the photo will have more narrative.
  • A building – A red-walled building against green hills is a good combination for a photo. In a coastal setting, a lighthouse can make for a great subject.

The single yurt acts as the main subject in this photo.

Use other techniques

Minimalist landscapes naturally dovetail with several other well-known photography techniques. You can apply one or more of these to your photo, for a better image. Take a look at some of these techniques, and look at why they’ll improve your photo:

  • Silhouettes – In order to photograph a silhouette, you’ll be photographing towards the light, and quite likely towards a sunset sky. This means landscape features in your photo will likely also be black with a colored sky. This will give you a good chance of creating a minimalist image.
  • Long exposure – Blurred clouds moving across the sky, or flattening the sea are both potential results of long exposure photography. Use a tripod and expose for more than 5 seconds to flatten the sea, and usually longer than 30 seconds to see cloud movement.
  • RefractionThe use of a lensball for refraction photography is a good way of creating minimalism even in a busy setting. Place the more complicated scene within the lensball, and surround the ball with a blurred bokeh background for minimalism.
  • Harmony – This means keeping the same set of colors within the same photo. So try cold colors or warm colors. Even better for minimalism is keeping the same color, but in different shades. There is lots of potential for this in landscape photography, especially when the photo is taken from a bird’s eye point of view.
  • Contrast – One of the reasons black and white photography works so well is its intrinsic minimalism – especially those black and white photos with the highest contrast. Look to experiment with two main colors, and not more when creating a minimalist landscape.

In this photo, there are a number of elements in the frame. The minimalism is provided by the single tone of the image. The main subject is silhouetted against the background.

Conclusion

Landscapes and minimalist photography are two of the most popular photography genres there are, so it makes sense to combine them.

Have you experimented with this type of image? Did you use any of the approaches mentioned in this article? Having read this article, would it make you approach your landscape photography in a slightly different way? What approaches do you use for landscape photography?

As always, we’d love you to share your opinions and photos with the community. Please share in the comments section of this article.

 

The post How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape

The post How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Creating amazing photos can be much easier than you think. The simplest images can be the most striking. Keeping your image simple means minimalism. In this article, you’ll learn about creating minimalist landscape photos. The creation of these type of images requires the correct use of a lens, and often the correct selection of location. Read on and find out all you need to know to create minimalism in your landscape photos.

In this photo, the main subject is the mountain in the distance. The remainder of the frame is kept simple.

The location for a minimalist landscape

Where you take your photo will determine your success with minimalist landscape photography. You’ll have more success in remote locations, but urban environments can also be used for minimalism as well.

When photographing in a busier environment, you’ll need to use the correct lens and camera angle to maintain minimalism with your photo. More remote locations naturally have a minimalist feel, but the challenge in those locations is locating a strong main subject.

The following are locations you could use for minimalist landscape:

  • Coastal – This is a great location for minimalist photography. The great expanse of the sea invites minimalism. You can further build on this by flattening the sea through long exposure. Interesting rock formations or a lighthouse can make great main subjects.
  • Deserts – Whether you’re photographing on the sand or on the ice, deserts are the land equivalent of the sea when it comes to minimalism. Vast, uniform in their features, and without the clutter of human development.
  • Mountains – Another area that is remote are mountains. These also offer opportunities to create a minimalist landscape. With too many mountains in the one scene they can also be potentially cluttered, so choose compositions with care. A lone hut surround be the green foothills of a mountain range would make for a good subject.

Deserts make excellent locations for minimalist landscapes.

The lens

The lens you choose is equally as important as the location for a minimalist landscape. There is no absolute rule over which lens to use; it depends on the location you find yourself in. If you have chosen a location in the wilderness, the chances are you can use either a wide angle or a long telephoto lens. However, if you’re photographing in the city, the lens becomes important.

  • Wide angle – A lens that works well for minimalism, as you can use that wide angle to create the nice negative space required for a minimalist landscape. Think how you can get down to a low angle for those ripples in the sand on a sand dune. In a more cluttered environment, you need to be careful though, as the wide angle could easily cause unwanted elements to appear in the frame and make it too busy.
  • Long focal length – The longer focal lengths allow you to zoom in on a particular portion of your scene. Here, the challenge is to avoid compressing too many things into the same photo. Choose an area on the horizon that’s interesting but devoid of too many extra elements. This focal length can be a big advantage in an urban setting that’s generally too chaotic for minimalism, yet has portions of the skyline that can be zoomed in on to create a minimal image.

This photo uses a wide-angle lens. This really captures the interest in the foreground from the shapes in the sand.

Adjust your perspective

Photos that are taken at eye level work well for many situations. However, when you’re looking for minimalism, changing to a new angle works wonders.

The following are good choices when it comes to simplifying your image:

  • Bird’s eye – Things looks very different from a high angle looking down. The higher you get, the more dramatic this becomes. One of the reason’s drone photography works so well is its potential for minimalism.
  • Worm’s eye – At the other extreme is the worm’s eye view looking up. You could include a small amount of the horizon line, and make the remainder of the photo about the sky. This will give you a landscape photo with a very minimalist feel.
  • Framing – The use of a frame around the landscape portion of your photo could give you a minimalist photo. The landscape itself need not be minimalist in this case, so long as the surrounding frame provides enough negative space to tick the minimalist box.
  • Lensball – A lensball, in effect, frames a landscape inside a spherical object. That allows you to take a minimalist landscape, and keep the area surrounding the ball simple. This will give your photo a minimalist edge as well.

A lensball can be used to capture a scene that’s not normally minimalist, and capture it in a minimal way.

A good main subject

Every photo type is strengthened by having a main subject. In some cases, the inclusion of that main subject can be more of a challenge. Portrait photos, for instance, always have the main subject – the person you’re photographing. Landscape photos may not always have an obvious focal point – in some cases, it’s not needed – but for most photos, it will give you a stronger image.

In a minimalist landscape, that main subject will leap out of the photo strengthened by the minimalism across the rest of the frame. So what type of object could you use for this main subject?

  • A lone tree – The classic, a lone tree. There’s a good reason for this, of course. It’s a clear focal point in an image, looks beautiful, and works well for a number of composition types. It’s also relatively easy to isolate a lone tree.
  • A single person – A lone person silhouetted against the horizon. Someone riding their bike up the ridge of a hill. Whether you decide to stage this or it was more spontaneous, the photo will have more narrative.
  • A building – A red-walled building against green hills is a good combination for a photo. In a coastal setting, a lighthouse can make for a great subject.

The single yurt acts as the main subject in this photo.

Use other techniques

Minimalist landscapes naturally dovetail with several other well-known photography techniques. You can apply one or more of these to your photo, for a better image. Take a look at some of these techniques, and look at why they’ll improve your photo:

  • Silhouettes – In order to photograph a silhouette, you’ll be photographing towards the light, and quite likely towards a sunset sky. This means landscape features in your photo will likely also be black with a colored sky. This will give you a good chance of creating a minimalist image.
  • Long exposure – Blurred clouds moving across the sky, or flattening the sea are both potential results of long exposure photography. Use a tripod and expose for more than 5 seconds to flatten the sea, and usually longer than 30 seconds to see cloud movement.
  • RefractionThe use of a lensball for refraction photography is a good way of creating minimalism even in a busy setting. Place the more complicated scene within the lensball, and surround the ball with a blurred bokeh background for minimalism.
  • Harmony – This means keeping the same set of colors within the same photo. So try cold colors or warm colors. Even better for minimalism is keeping the same color, but in different shades. There is lots of potential for this in landscape photography, especially when the photo is taken from a bird’s eye point of view.
  • Contrast – One of the reasons black and white photography works so well is its intrinsic minimalism – especially those black and white photos with the highest contrast. Look to experiment with two main colors, and not more when creating a minimalist landscape.

In this photo, there are a number of elements in the frame. The minimalism is provided by the single tone of the image. The main subject is silhouetted against the background.

Conclusion

Landscapes and minimalist photography are two of the most popular photography genres there are, so it makes sense to combine them.

Have you experimented with this type of image? Did you use any of the approaches mentioned in this article? Having read this article, would it make you approach your landscape photography in a slightly different way? What approaches do you use for landscape photography?

As always, we’d love you to share your opinions and photos with the community. Please share in the comments section of this article.

 

The post How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

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