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How to do a Themed Photo Walk to Break out of a Photography Rut

19 Sep

In simple terms, the more photographs you take, the more experience you gain. As they say, “the more the clicks, the better the pics”. It seems like an inevitable formula, right? But like many things, it’s easier said than done. Maintaining a constant flow of photographic material, let alone inspiration is hard work.

The dreaded photographer’s block means you can find yourself shooting one minute and stuck in a creative lull the next. Fortunately, there are plenty of small tasks you can set for yourself to break out of a rut. Doing a themed photo walk is a great way to get those creative juices flowing, with the added bonus of getting your daily step-count up in the process as well.

What is a themed photo walk?

A themed walk is just that. First, you select a theme. Then, armed with a camera, allow yourself to be guided by wherever your photography legs may take you. When you see a subject that fits your theme, take a quick snap and move on. The goal is to accumulate a body of photographs pertaining to the theme you preselected before you set off.

While taking a few random shots to shrug off a creative lull works well. But pot-shots make it hard to build up a series to revisit later. By taking on a themed photography outing, you’ll quickly fall back into the habit of actively seeking details and subjects, focusing your creative energies into a body of work with greater substance.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Themed projects are a great excuse to document the world around you. Under the theme “desire paths” I photographed this series of pebbles – unearthed on a well-worn trail I take home.

Choosing a theme

The first step in this exercise can prove to be the hardest. Selecting a theme will define what you’ll be photographing on your walk. There are so many options to choose from, it can be hard to settle on a single one. Good themes are built on a strong idea of the target subject. A single color, shape, or pattern are simple yet effective choices, as are subjects that you’ll encounter frequently on your walk.

You may be tempted to choose a few themes at once, but focusing on a single idea will help construct your series with much greater detail. Plus, this project is about easing back into photography, not racing around madly trying to photograph as much as you can in a day.

Themes I’ve chosen in the past include dumpsters, traffic lines on roads (look out for traffic if you choose this one), spent cigarette packets, and squashed aluminum cans. As long as you don’t choose subjects like rain on a sunny day, you can’t go wrong. Once you make your selection and set off, you’ll be amazed how quickly you develop a discerning eye for your topic.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

For this photo walk I initially planned to photograph trees, though I let the theme evolve into a study of tree trunks instead. To draw greater attention to the form in each unique profile, I converted the images to black and white. Having the images arranged in a grid highlights the subtle differences in the subjects photographed.

Setting Off

Once you’ve settled on a theme, you’re ready to go. Start by having a good look at your surroundings. Depending on your theme, you may encounter photographic subjects as soon as you step out the door. Others may take a little more searching. Take your time and enjoy the process.

There are no hard and fast rules here. If you realize you’ve chosen a difficult subject, select a different one and start on that instead. This process is for easing creativity-fatigue and taking the time to see detail in your environment. Although this exercise is rewarding when used to create a series, the action of taking some downtime to work on your personal photography is what matters most.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

If, like me, you often find yourself time-short, try taking just a few snaps over the course of the day. I put this brief “yellow” themed series together while getting some fresh air on a lunch break. Once I had decided on my theme, it was a lot easier to pick out subjects to photograph.

Pulling it together

After you feel satisfied you’ve taken a solid amount of photographs, you’re ready to head home. Once you get back to your computer, it’s time to check out your handy work. So far, this project may have seemed a little sporadic, especially if you’ve chosen a broad theme. But this part of the project involves pulling all the images together to form a cohesive body of work.

Upload your images to the computer as you would normally and have a look over them with your preferred viewing software. Open a new document in Photoshop, select a few of your favorite images from your themed photo walk and drag them onto your canvas. Carefully resize each image so that they fit together in a neat grid. Make sure you hold down the Shift key while resizing images to maintain the aspect ratio of your photograph.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Select your favorite images from your themed photo walk and drag them onto a new document in Photoshop. Remember to hold the Shift key down to maintain the image’s proportions.

As you build up the images in your grid you’ll start to see how easily your hard work comes together in a series. Although you may want to experiment with the order of your photographs, your overreaching theme will make a big difference in tying your series together. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to use every image you took on your walk. Just pick whatever you feel works. Once you have your images sorted into the one canvas, you are ready to share and can post the results in the comments below for us to see.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Experimenting with the order that your images are arranged highlights the subtlety involved in creating a successful series of images. Working on a particular theme simplifies this process, leaving you to focus on the details that make the layout work.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Another variation of my road signage themed walk. Don’t be afraid to change up your layout and experiment until it feels right.

The benefits

Aside from the exercise, themed photo walks help channel your photographic energy into a body of work. No matter how broad or focused, taking photographs within a specific theme widens your photographic experience and enhances your eye for detail. Hunting down subjects within a deliberately selected theme will help you create images you might never have considered before.

This will also help you to visualize future projects and help you pick out elements in photographs that work cohesively in a series. It’s a great way to improve your practice and get your head back into the photography zone.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

I took these images under the theme “looking down”. I plodded around with my camera pointed toward the ground for a few hours just to see what I could find. The results made a unique series built upon an unusual perspective.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Another themed walk collage.

The post How to do a Themed Photo Walk to Break out of a Photography Rut by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

19 Sep

Win a $ 500 gift card and a Corel software package – PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate, AfterShot Pro 3, VideoStudio Ultimate X10 and ParticleShop. Boom!

Enter the Corel “Colors of Fall” photography contest today!

Over the last few years here at dPS, we’ve run very some very popular competitions with our partners to give away some of their great photographic products to lucky dPS readers.

We are lucky enough to be able to do it again now.

Three Prizes

For this competition, Corel is giving away, as the grand prize, a $ 500 gift card and a Corel Software Package. The second place winner will receive a full Corel software package and the third place winner will win a copy of PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate.

The software package includes PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate, AfterShot Pro 3, VideoStudio Ultimate X10 and ParticleShop.

These prizes are designed to help every level of photographer create BETTER pictures. Since 1989, with the introduction of CorelDRAW, Corel boasts a range of award-winning products that includes graphics, painting, photo, video and office software with a community of over 100 million strong. Each prize will be won by a different dPS reader.

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

All three prize winners will receive the full version of Corel’s leading photo editing and graphic design software – A $ 99.99 value!

* Special Offer – All dPS readers will receive 10% discount on PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Get Photoshop-like results for less with PaintShop® Pro 2018 Ultimate including a faster, easier PaintShop Pro and an exclusive bonus collection of premium software you won’t find in Photoshop. Turn photos into works of art with Painter® Essentials™ 5, automatically correct images with Perfectly Clear 3 SE, and edit RAW photos quickly with Corel® AfterShot™ 3.

  • Edit photos like a professional
  • Create unique graphic design projects
  • Turn your photos into works of art
  • Enhance your photos instantly
  • Work with RAW images
  • Simplified user interface

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Learn a little more about PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate here.

How to Win

To win this competition you’ll need to:

  1. Download a free trial of PaintShop Pro 2018
  2. Edit your favorite “Colors of Fall” photo, using PaintShop Pro 2018
  3. Post your “Colors of Fall” photo, along with a few words on how you feel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate would help your photography and, of course, a few words about your “Colors of Fall” photo. It’s as easy as that!

Do this in the next 21 days and on October 9, 2017, the team at Corel will choose the three best photos and comments, and we will announce the winners in the following days.

The deadline to enter is October 8, 2017, Midnight PDT. Photos and comments left after the deadline will not be considered.

Note: By entering the “Colors of Fall” photo competition, the Entrant is providing permission to Corel to publish their photo, if it is chosen as a winner, to be utilized within media post/s by Corel announcing the winners and promoting. Entrants will be provided a full photo credit if a photo is used, and will retain their copyright.

Please click HERE for full contest rules, terms and conditions.

By best – we’re looking for people who understand photography post-processing, and how PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate may best suit your needs. So you’ll need to check out the product page to put yourself in the best position to win. Don’t forget that to grab a free trial download.

There’s no need to write essay length comments to win – but we’re looking to hear what you like about the software and how it would help your development as a photographer. Don’t forget to include your “Colors of Fall” photo that you edited with PaintShop Pro 2018. We encourage you to have fun and be creative!

This competition is open to everyone, no matter where you live – but there is only one entry per person. To enter – simply leave your photo and comment below.

Note: By entering the “Colors of Fall” photo competition, the Entrant is providing permission to Corel to publish their photo, if it is chosen as a winner, to be utilized within media post/s by Corel announcing the winners and promoting. Entrants will be provided a full photo credit if a photo is used, and will retain their copyright.

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Disclaimer: Corel is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

19 Sep

Street photography is normally a very open and free-form photography genre, but sometimes because we are traveling it’s better to plan a shoot rather than relying on luck.

Fortune, they say, favors the prepared, and when all you have is a few hours in a new land, better get ready to make the most of what you’ve got. Makes sense, no? Here’s how I prepare a street photography shoot when I know time will be limited.

What to do a few days before

A few days before your shoot you will need a few apps and tools.

The first is an offline map, Google Maps allows you to save chunks of the map but some areas are off limits (I tried to save a map of Osaka and wasn’t allowed). You need to find apps that have offline maps from the get-go and download the map of the area where you are going. It sounds stupid and you might be tempted to skip this part, but when I went to Hong Kong, I wasted an hour and a half trying to get out of the subway area into the main roads.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

The second app you need is called the Photographers Ephemeris (iOS / Android). It’s designed for landscape shooters but it’s also useful for street photographers because it allows you to know where and when the sun will rise and set. It tells you what to expect in terms of light. It is a paid app, but alternatively, you can get that information for free online.

This is very useful information that you can use to predict what camera/lens you may require also. No need to get your high ISO camera if you plan to leave before the sun sets, for example.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Planning your shoot

Here’s the deal, if you had all the time in the world, you would stroll and go wherever you feel images are calling you. But you don’t, probably one or two days is all you have while traveling. So you need an idea of where to go while leaving things open to opportunity and chance as well.

1- Check the weather

Don’t miss this step! It may sound stupid but this not only allows you to plan ahead and might tell you to bring extra protective gear. I usually check the day before because the weather is very unreliable and the forecast can change quickly.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

2- What are your numbers?

You need to know when you are arriving and leaving. For example, imagine you are arriving at 8 pm and leaving at 4 pm the next day. What I recommend first of all is to set an alarm that tells you when to start and stop shooting, it usually takes an hour to get situated so I would set an alarm for 9 pm and 3 pm the following day. You need to figure out the amount of time it takes to get from the airport to where you are staying and to return again. I personally have an alarm for when to eat too.

While this might sound tedious, it gives you the freedom to shoot because it will tell you exactly when to start and when to stop, and you do not have to worry about it. When traveling you have no familiar bearings so the alarms get you grounded.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Consider your arrival time

The other reason for knowing your numbers is knowing what you can expect. Remember the information you got from Photographer’s ephemeris or online. When are the sunrise, midday, and sunset?

Let’s say sunset is at  7 pm and sunrise at 7 am. If you are arriving at 8 pm you would know that you will arrive at night. So if you want to shoot the morning light, you need to wake up before 7 am and you know that you will miss the sunset. This kind of information will tell you what kind of light you can anticipate. But you also need to know where you are going.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Where to go

When going somewhere new, I try to find the population centers and busy streets. So I google “[city name here] busy street” look at the results, and try to find the names of the busiest streets. It’s not magical, it’s probably overshot but where there are more people, usually there are interesting shots. Here are my results using Hong Kong as an example.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Note: This is where you want to google according to your project and style. If you have a project with businessmen, you want to find out where the central business district is for example.

When looking for populated areas, there is usually a long stretch of road that is popular that provides great opportunities. For example:

  • Market Street in Philadelphia
  • Times Square in New York
  • Dotonbori in Osaka
  • Ocean Drive in Miami
  • Gangnam in Seoul
  • Nathan road in Hong Kong

Then I map out how to go there from the airport. When you know your times and where to go, you have a clearer idea of what you can expect. All of your energy is saved for shooting and not figuring things out when you arrive. Like I said above, after sweating like a pig trying to get out of the subway area in Kowloon, Hong Kong, it zapped my energy levels greatly. I doubled down on coffee.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Use your gathered information wisely

It takes some experience but after a while, you start to know what to expect with all the information gathered. In the morning, you know what direction to be in to shoot the sun or have it at your back. You know when stores will start opening and people go to work. Knowing where you are going will help with your expectations. For example, if there are a lot of high-rises that will create shadow areas.

Knowing what time night falls will tell you when street vendors will start to close, the light from stores will create a new light source, or when to pull out a flash if that’s your thing.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Protection

You have to be careful. What you believe is a camera is someone else’s next meal for a month. Population centers and busy streets are opportunities for street photographers but also for street thieves. It depends on where you are going, some places are safer than others. I like the anti-theft Pacsafe brand, but you can make yourself less pick-pocket friendly if you turn your backpack and hold it against your belly.

Also, don’t flaunt your camera if you know you are going somewhere there are lots of pick-pockets. You have to be careful not to damage the camera, but some tape is perfect to uglify the camera. And as much as you can, avoid backpacks and bags that scream “camera bag”. It immediately flags you as having a camera.

How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling

Conclusion

There you have my system for how to prepare for a travel street photography shoot. I would be the first to say that it’s better to go somewhere and leave things open, but sometimes that’s just not a good use of your time when you only have a few hours or days to shoot somewhere. It’s better to prepare and then leave things open. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

The post How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling by Olivier Duong appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

18 Sep

Win a $ 500 gift card and a Corel software package – PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate, AfterShot Pro 3, VideoStudio Ultimate X10 and ParticleShop. Boom!

Enter the Corel “Colors of Fall” photography contest today!

Over the last few years here at dPS, we’ve run very some very popular competitions with our partners to give away some of their great photographic products to lucky dPS readers.

We are lucky enough to be able to do it again now.

Three Prizes

For this competition, Corel is giving away, as the grand prize, a $ 500 gift card and a Corel Software Package. The second place winner will receive a full Corel software package and the third place winner will win a copy of PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate.

The software package includes PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate, AfterShot Pro 3, VideoStudio Ultimate X10 and ParticleShop.

These prizes are designed to help every level of photographer create BETTER pictures. Since 1989, with the introduction of CorelDRAW, Corel boasts a range of award-winning products that includes graphics, painting, photo, video and office software with a community of over 100 million strong. Each prize will be won by a different dPS reader.

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

All three prize winners will receive the full version of Corel’s leading photo editing and graphic design software – A $ 99.99 value!

* Special Offer – All dPS readers will receive 10% discount on PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Get Photoshop-like results for less with PaintShop® Pro 2018 Ultimate including a faster, easier PaintShop Pro and an exclusive bonus collection of premium software you won’t find in Photoshop. Turn photos into works of art with Painter® Essentials™ 5, automatically correct images with Perfectly Clear 3 SE, and edit RAW photos quickly with Corel® AfterShot™ 3.

  • Edit photos like a professional
  • Create unique graphic design projects
  • Turn your photos into works of art
  • Enhance your photos instantly
  • Work with RAW images
  • Simplified user interface

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Learn a little more about PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate here.

How to Win

To win this competition you’ll need to:

  1. Download a free trial of PaintShop Pro 2018
  2. Edit your favorite “Colors of Fall” photo, using PaintShop Pro 2018
  3. Post your “Colors of Fall” photo, along with a few words on how you feel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate would help your photography and, of course, a few words about your “Colors of Fall” photo. It’s as easy as that!

Do this in the next 21 days and on October 9, 2017, the team at Corel will choose the three best photos and comments, and we will announce the winners in the following days.

The deadline to enter is October 8, 2017, Midnight PDT. Photos and comments left after the deadline will not be considered.

Note: By entering the “Colors of Fall” photo competition, the Entrant is providing permission to Corel to publish their photo, if it is chosen as a winner, to be utilized within media post/s by Corel announcing the winners and promoting. Entrants will be provided a full photo credit if a photo is used, and will retain their copyright.

Please click HERE for full contest rules, terms and conditions.

By best – we’re looking for people who understand photography post-processing, and how PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate may best suit your needs. So you’ll need to check out the product page to put yourself in the best position to win. Don’t forget that to grab a free trial download.

There’s no need to write essay length comments to win – but we’re looking to hear what you like about the software and how it would help your development as a photographer. Don’t forget to include your “Colors of Fall” photo that you edited with PaintShop Pro 2018. We encourage you to have fun and be creative!

This competition is open to everyone, no matter where you live – but there is only one entry per person. To enter – simply leave your photo and comment below.

Note: By entering the “Colors of Fall” photo competition, the Entrant is providing permission to Corel to publish their photo, if it is chosen as a winner, to be utilized within media post/s by Corel announcing the winners and promoting. Entrants will be provided a full photo credit if a photo is used, and will retain their copyright.

Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

Disclaimer: Corel is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Enter to Win Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Review and Field Test of G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drives

18 Sep

As photographers, keeping our data safe is of the utmost importance. Being able to trust your hard drives to work and survive all types of conditions and hardships is something to consider. As a wildlife photographer, I often find myself out in the elements, and when traveling, my gear has to put up with the rugged nature of travel, while still being ready to work when called upon. Recently I have been putting the G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC hard drives through their paces and I think these might just be one of the best rugged and solid ways to keep data safe on the move.

Review G Technology G Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drive

G-Drive ev ATC hard drive features

The ATC is part of the G-technology ev series, a set of drives offering a simple workflow from the field to the studio. The ATC builds upon the standard RaW and ev drives by adding a polycarbonate protective shell to the main drive offering protection from bumps, dust, sand and even full submergence in water to keep your drive and data safe.

The case itself is solid – the simple blue and black design that is stylish and bright enough to easily find in dark conditions. The polycarbonate shell feels very solid in the hand and fits the drive like a glove. It seals closed with a latch system that might seem flimsy, but offers a solid click and seal to ensure the drive is closed off from the elements.

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives - The G drive inside the ATC case

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Locking mechanism for waterproof closure

The G-Drive ev ATC comes in two varieties, offering Thunderbolt or USB-3 connections for your chosen device. The cords are built into the case itself so you don’t need to worry about forgetting them, a really well thought out design. Of course, the case adds an extra amount of bulk to the setup that might be a problem for those photographers wanting to keep things as small as possible, but personally, I think the extra size is a worthy trade off for the added protection.

Testing the drives during travel

Testing the drives out, they have accompanied me on a few international trips, coming as my primary and backup drives for work in the Falklands, Canada, and Finland. On each trip I have worked with two drives, keeping one as a primary and the other as secondary backup. The fast data transfer speeds were great, 1GB of data transferred in less than a minute over USB-3 meaning backups were swift and simple.

On returning flights keeping data separate is important (in case of a lost bag) and I had no worries about packing one of these with the G-Drive ev ATC hard drives into my checked baggage, knowing the solid construction would keep it protected from any rough handling from the dreaded baggage handlers! On all of my trips, the hold drive never skipped a beat, being ready to upload as soon as I got home to my office.

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Using the internal drive with the EV docking station

The drive easily pops out and can be inserted into the G-Dock for easy file transfer back home.

In the office the workflow is simple. Popping the drives out of the housing I can easily slot them into the Ev docking station (called G-Dock) that gives me Thunderbolt speeds to upload images directly to my main drives for editing, backup and archiving. The ease of being able to just slot in one drive saves faffing around with multiple SD and CF cards again, keeping my workflow streamlined.

Extreme testing

To further test the drives I wanted to put them through the mill so I decided to rough them up with some real world testing. Grabbing one of the drives in the ATC case I took it out onto location and basically treated it like I didn’t care it was full of precious data. Dropping it onto the ground, into muddy puddles and even throwing it into my local river before rescuing it again down stream.

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Tested in the dirt and mud without a hitch

Each test was passed with flying colors and even after fully submerging the drive underwater with my hand for a minute, it was in perfect working order. Of course, one problem with the drive is that you do need to check that everything is latched down. Human error, not fully closing the latch or getting something stuck into the gasket could compromise the waterproofing and seal, so it’s best to always be careful. I mean I doubt too many of us regularly throw our drives in a river intentionally…

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Underwater isnt a problem for the ATC

As a drive, they are built solidly, but one area that I feel would be a great improvement is the use of SSDs rather than normal disk drives. Including an SSD would just add another level to the rugged nature of the drives making them even more durable for life on the road, while also giving faster transfer speeds. This would be especially useful for those editing and working with video files on the move as well.

As a photographer, G-Drive ev ATC hard drives suit my needs very well. The large 1TB hard drive easily has enough storage for a long photo shoot on location and with the protective shell offering great durability to my drives I am sure they will be part of my workflow for many years to come.

The post Review and Field Test of G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drives by Tom Mason appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

18 Sep

Wildlife photography is all about creating a connection with the subject and with your audience. One of the key components of your wildlife images is how well they capture the audience’s attention. One of the most effective ways to do that is to try and get down and shoot at eye-level with the subject. Please note that eye-level need not necessarily mean ground-level always. You could have a subject on a tree, rock, etc., so it’s not always essential to be at the ground-level but being at eye-level really helps.

What’s the difference?

Let’s see what difference is in an image when you shot from eye-level of the subject.

Taken from a car.

Taken at eye level on the ground.

Purely from an attention grabbing perspective, this renders the background totally blurred thus restricting the number of points vying for attention. As is seen in the image above, the image when taken from eye-level helps in drawing attention directly to the bird. Why does this happen, though? What causes the background to blur out?

The background is affected

Often in my workshops and tours, I suggest people that they should ask “Why?” for all concepts and tips. For the eye-level approach to wildlife photography, I again ask, “Why does this result in getting a cleaner background?” The answer might be obvious to a lot of you but for those others who are just starting their journey as photographers, the following question might help.

Ever you ever searched for a tiny thing like an earring or a needle on the floor?

The obvious approach is to immediately get down to ground level and rest your head on the floor. But why does that help? It helps simply because by changing your perspective you change the distance between the subject and the background. The greater this distance, the greater the chance there is of the shallower depth of field coming into play and that of the subject standing out.

Take the images above for example. The following illustration will show the difference in terms of background for both..

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

In the illustration where the photographer is standing up, the background consists of the ground immediately behind the bird. The less the distance between subject and background, the lesser the blur of the background is achieved.

Where the photographer is lying down, the background is almost infinity (a significant distance away from the bird). The greater the distance between subject and background, the more blur of the background can be achieved.

With that rule understood, you will be able to apply it in the field that much better. Here are a few more examples of eye-level wildlife photography.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for shooting wildlife photography at eye-level

Now that we have established the advantage of going to the eye-level of the subject, let’s take a look at a few ways to go about doing that.

Getting to the eye-level

#1 Get yourself flat on the ground

This is the easiest to do, as you just have to lie down, right? Well, I wish it was just that. If you are in a vehicle and are close enough to the subject, then try to get down on the ground with minimal to no noise and generally very slowly. Try and make moves only when the subject is looking away. Once you are flat on the ground, try not to make a lot of burst shots immediately. Let the subject get accustomed to you first.

#2 Get the vehicle at eye-level

Take a look at the image below. It is a pair of lions in the African savannah.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Quite often, wildlife photography is done in reserves or national parks, where getting down from the vehicle is not allowed. So what can you do in such scenarios? This is where your field-craft comes in handy. Know your subject and you will be able to predict its movement.

For example, take a scenario where you have a big cat walking on a road (they seem to like doing that don’t they?). You could either stop where you are and fire-off a few shots. OR you could take a moment to evaluate the animal’s potential path and wait at a location where the road is slightly lower than where you are currently situated. A lower elevation for the vehicle would ensure a better connection with the subject when it walks towards you. Take a look at the simple sketch below to give you an idea.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

#3 Crawl

This one has to do mostly with shooting on the beach. If you are into shorebird photography quite often you will find yourself on a sandy beach because those are the areas where your subjects are found. It is generally not very easy to get up-close to these guys using your vehicle so you have to start crawling from a safe distance.

I have noticed that shorebirds allow you to get really close-up as long as you are willing to put in that effort to crawl and not rush in on them. Here is an example of the result of a 50-foot crawl.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Yes, get those elbow and knee guards ready because it isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially if you are carrying a big lens around. A contraption like the ground pod helps a lot in this situation to push the gear easily.

#4 Standing up

Sometimes, when you are in a vehicle, getting to eye-level might simply mean standing up. Look at the following two images. Both clicked at the same spot, one while I was sitting down and the other when I decided to get up to eye-level.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

It makes a world of a difference right? Now please remember that even when you are doing a simple thing like standing up, you need to be very cautious and slow in your approach. Wildlife does not like sudden movements, it spooks them.

Getting ready for eye-level

As with everything in photography, practice makes life much easier in the field, so here is my advice for the eye-level approach. Initially just try it without the camera. See if you can understand the mood of the subject. Remember, make no alarming or sudden movements and be as quiet and slow as possible.

Once you are able to do this with a certain degree of success, you are ready to then bring out the camera gear and give it a go. Remember, this is quite a lot like being a predator. You will not have a 100% success rate. Just make sure that when you succeed, you make full use of it. What I mean is, make sure that before you get down on the ground, you have chosen the spot well for a good background and you have taken into account the light on the subject.

So get out there, and practice and share your wildlife photography eye-level images.

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How To Retouch Old Photos In Photoshop

15 Sep

Family photos can be incredibly precious keepsakes. Most of us have in our possession old pictures of our parents, our grandparents, or ourselves, but unfortunately, as a result of time and poor protection, these photos often become scratched or torn, or lose their original spark. Thanks to Photoshop, we can easily restore our old photos in a fun and creative Continue Reading

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Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

15 Sep

Minimalism gained traction in America in the 1960s with links to the Japanese traditional culture of Zen Philosophy. As a reaction against the whims of abstract expressionism, artists like Sol LeWitt, Frank Stella, and Mark Rothko experimented with stripped back processes and imagery, exposing the bare bones of visual art.

The history of the minimalist photography movement is not dissimilar to that of their contemporaries. The scientific photography of Bernice Abbott is referred to as a marked pivot towards minimalism. Photographers like Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz also used reductionist techniques to explore composition in the natural and urban landscape.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

Like all visual art, minimalism is founded on the basic elements of design; line, shape, color, texture, form, and composition. The scope of interpretation within minimalist art is vast, with its proponents yielding a diversity of results and reasoning. Overall, however, minimalist art can be surmised within a single principle, the old adage of “keep it simple”.

Keeping it simple

Minimalism is about how little you can say without compromising meaning. Minimalist photography is a great opportunity to slow down and reevaluate your photographic process. Before taking a shot, take a breath. Think about your desired outcome. How does your knowledge of composition apply to the subject at hand? How would you like to approach exposure? Minimalism is a very meditative process, sort of like yoga, but for your photography.

Composing minimalist photography in an urban landscape

Often, the utilitarian components that make up an urban landscape are the same that serve as the best minimalist subjects. Minimalist depictions of nature tend to rely on the soft flow of organic structures. However, urban minimalist photography capitalizes on the bold lines of old buildings, fresh apartments, and upturned car parks.

Intermixed with bolts of color, texture, and juxtaposition, minimalist photography can be both subtle and loud at the same time. Photographers of minimalism capitalize on strong, stripped back elements to create both subtle and high-impact imagery. That’s why moving forward in minimalist photography often requires you to steep yourself in the very basics of photographic composition first.

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a trick to help determine the overall composition of a photograph. Mentally divide an image up evenly into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The lines that intersect around the central rectangle indicate the points that capture the majority of a viewer’s attention. By offsetting important points in a photograph from the center rectangle, an image will feel more naturally appealing to your audience.

Minimalist photography relies equally on what has been included and excluded from an image. Composing a visually harmonious photograph with tools like the rule of thirds maximizes the short time a viewer has to engage with a photograph.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

This image is sectioned off into 9 even rectangles. The four central intersecting points indicate the focal points of the photograph.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

This image is an example of the rule-of-thirds in practice. No single component of the photograph lies directly within the center, guiding the viewer’s eye around the image rather directly to the center.

Color

Color has a language that establishes the atmosphere and emotional range of an image. Where traditional black and white highlights the form of an image, two or three highly contrasting colors can bring the facade of the urban environment to life.

Blocks of color convey vitality and hardness in an image, whereas a gradient is softer and more accommodating. Pastel color schemes depicted by many contemporary minimalist photographers deliver a surreal, dream-like quality to a photograph, while also alluding to childhood, disassociation and new-media aesthetics.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment - color

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

Isolated colors can add depth to an image and draw attention to details often overlooked in the urban landscape.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

Lines

Strong lines in minimalist photography carry the integrity of an image. Conveying depth and presence, bold lines leading in from the perimeter of an image grab a viewer’s attention and guide their eye through the artwork. Lines delineate the boundaries of different bodies within a space and can denote unrest at sharp angles or quiet emotion with organic ripples.

Horizontal lines are used as a device to indicate the horizon, perspective, or to completely upend a viewer’s sense of space altogether! When composing an image, follow each line through with your eyes. Adjusting the integrity of a line later in post-production can be extremely time-consuming. And the success of a minimalist photograph could (and probably will) count on it being exact.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

Leading lines reach the perimeter of the physical photograph and provide the viewer with a visual trail to follow into the interior of the image.

Shape

The compositional elements of line and shape often cross over in a visual plane. For example, the perimeter of a shape can be defined by its outer line, sectioning the interior of the shape off from the background of the image.

Sharp, inorganic shapes create unrest and action in an image, whereas smooth, organic shapes create a scene of peace, nature, and evenness. The urban environment consists of an inexhaustible array of sharp and smooth lines. Trying to bring the two spectra together creates a dynamic juxtaposition of design and emotion.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

Pattern and texture

Pattern and texture lift the image from the page. Texture is the physicality of an image, which engages with an audience by appealing to their sense of touch. Pattern, often combined with texture, adds detail to a photograph, revealing beauty the repetition of otherwise unobserved subject matter.

Minimalism and pattern can combine to emphasize size and number, delivering a feeling of sensory overload simply by the repetition of a single design. When limited to concentrated areas in an image, a pattern can serve as a disruption to the remaining landscape or as a contrast to emphasize negative space.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment - texture

Textural images often depict the wear and tear of the urban environment in delightfully intricate detail.

Negative space

Negative space is what is not there which can be kind of confusing. It lends breathing room to an image. It allows the immediate subject matter to exist with little or no intrusion elsewhere in the frame.

As an example, an image of a single cloud, framed by blue sky neither intrudes nor detracts from the other, but the two exchange meaning nonetheless. The sharp contrast between vacant and overflowing environments means that urban landscapes are great for incorporating negative space into minimalist photography.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment - negative space

The geometric pattern on the right of this image is offset by the negative space on the left. The relationship balances out the image overall and enhances the bold yellow streak down the middle.

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

Conclusion

Minimalism has seen a considerable resurgence in recent years, especially in interior design and photography. A wealth of online curatorship means that tags like #minimal and #minimal_perfection unearth fresh, reductionist imagery by the second. Although the overwhelming volume of images may seem contrary to the principals of minimalism itself, the evolution of the modern landscape continues to create a wealth of opportunity for photographic artists looking to branch out or hone their skills in composition.

How do you use minimalist photography with your images? Please share in the comments below.

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How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

15 Sep

When it comes to lighting, there is an infinite choice on how you can light your portrait subjects. That’s great and it’s addicting, but when you are starting out it can also be overwhelming. To counter the inevitable information overload that you will get researching lighting, it is a good idea to know a few basic setups that you can fall back on should you be pressed for time or should you need a backup. This article will introduce you to a basic two light setup often called clamshell lighting.

It will provide you with a beautiful soft light with faint shadows and glorious catchlights. Clamshell lighting works very well and it is very flattering for men and women of all ages and it could be a very useful technique in your toolkit.
How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

What is clamshell lighting?

In a nutshell, clamshell lighting is a configuration where two lights are placed facing toward your subject at a 45-degree angle. Your key light is facing downwards at a 45-degree angle and your fill light is a facing upwards at a 45-degree angle. The resulting appearance of your lights from the side somewhat resembles an open clamshell (imagination may be required).

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Set-Up

Apologies for my stick figure skills, but here you can see just how easy clamshell lighting is to do.

If you start with your main light on axis (directly in front of your subject), raised up and pointed downward, you have a basic butterfly lighting set-up. Adding the second light from below serves as fill and eliminates any heavy shadows caused by the key light. This combination results in soft, flattering light that works well with almost any subject.

What you need

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Set-Up
To create a clamshell lighting setup, you need two light sources. If you have modifiers to soften your light, all the better, but as long as you have two light sources you can get started with clamshell lighting.

I do recommend starting with a pair of softboxes roughly the same size. Once you’ve mastered that, you can then start experimenting with other modifiers such as beauty dishes and strip boxes.

Setting it up

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup
Start with your key light (your main light source) and place it in front of your subject. Go closer for softer light and faster light fall off, or further away for a harder light. Place it above your subject, pointed directly at their nose. Meter for your desired aperture (we’ll use a hypothetical f/11 from this point) and take a test shot.

If everything is setup correctly you should have a decently lit image with deep shadows under your subject’s nose and chin.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

Now, take your fill light and place it directly underneath your key light. Point it upwards toward your subject at 45-degrees and meter this light for two stops below your preferred aperture, which would result in f/5.6 for our hypothetical aperture of f/11. If the effect is too strong and your fill light is obliterating the shadows, turn the power down. If it isn’t doing enough, turn it up. The main thing to look out for is that you need to ensure that your fill light is not overpowering your key light. This would result in your image being lit from below with your shadows being filled in from above. This is not a good look to go for.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

What to watch out for

The main thing to look out for is that you need to ensure that your fill light is not overpowering your key light. This would result in your image being lit from below with your shadows being filled in from above. This is not a good look.

Now that you have two lights sharing the same vertical space, stand behind them and shoot through the gap. If there isn’t much of a gap, raise and/or lower both of your lights (change the angle of each and take another meter reading if you need to) until you have enough room to work in the middle.

That’s all there is to it. Clamshell lighting is really is easy to set up and with a bit of practice you will be able to get it up and running in a couple of minutes.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

Note: The softbox at camera left is NOT on so isn’t doing anything.

Alterations

Although I suggested using two evenly sized softboxes, to begin with, that is by no means a restriction of any kind. Feel free to use any kind of modifier you want and experiment liberally. Have a pair of strip boxes you want to use? Go for it. Do you want to use a beauty dish as your key light and an umbrella as fill? Sure. How about a snoot and a small soft box? Absolutely. Use what you have at hand.>

Also, you are not limited to just using two lights from the front. Feel free to add rim and hair lights and a background light as your images require.

Examples



How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

This image included a third light serving as a background light.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, hopefully, you can see how useful a basic clamshell lighting setup is, and how it might serve you. It’s easy, fairly compact and produces lovely, flattering light. If you’re still not sure, I urge you to try it for yourself. You may very well fall in love with it.

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How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

14 Sep

Do you ever get under or overexposed photos when you use your camera’s light meter? Do you get frustrated that even in auto-mode you can’t get the correct exposure? That’s because there are two different type of light to deal with when taking a photo.

When you make a photograph the light is your raw material, which is why it’s important to understand how it works. It’s a very broad topic to cover, so for this article, we are just going to focus on the difference between incident and reflective light because that’s the key to getting your exposure right.

Incident versus reflective light


We all know this difference in a very intuitive way; let me give you an everyday example: when there is a sunny day, do you wear white clothes or black ones? Easy! You wear white or at least light colors, but why? If the sun will be the same, why wouldn’t you wear dark colors? Because you know that dark colors absorb light and therefore you’ll feel the heat more than wearing white which will reflect more light and keep you fresher. This is the same principle you need to apply when measuring the light for photography.

The difference explained

Diagram How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Incident light is that which is illuminating your scene. It falls on the subject before being altered (reflected) by it which is why it’s also a more accurate light reading.

When light hits objects it gets transformed by them and reflected out; this is what we perceive and what the camera captures and reads. This is called reflective light.

Light metering

Let’s see how these two concepts apply to light metering and exposure when you take a photo. In the next examples, I always used the same light for each.

In this first shot, I metered the light once I had framed the image I wanted, so it gave me a reading making an average of the reflective light.

General Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

The settings were ISO 400, f/5.6, with a shutter speed of 1/80th.

And the resulting photograph looked like this:

General Reading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Reflected light from a dark subject

However, like we said when talking about clothes, dark objects absorb light. So if I make the reading by measuring the black part of the photo, the settings that were “correct” before, now appear to be underexposed.

Black Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Even if the lighting is always the same, your camera thinks there is less. As a result, your photos will be overexposed.

Black Reading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Exposure: ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/13th.

Reflected light from a light subject

On the other hand, light objects reflect most of the light, so your camera will receive the message that it needs to reduce the exposure if you meter off something light.

White Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

And as a result, you will end up with underexposed images.

White Reading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Exposure: ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/200th.

None of these three readings gave you the correct exposure on your image because none of them were about the incident light. In order to get this accurate reading, you need to use a handheld external light meter, which can be very expensive. Fortunately, there are other ways to get the right exposure without having to spend a fortune.

Black and white… and gray

Back in the 1930s, a photographer called Ansel Adams developed a technique for the optimal exposure of photographs by dividing the degrees from light to dark into 11 zones, therefore it’s called the zone system. Everything in the world has a color and lightness that correspond to a zone. All light meters, including the one integrated into your camera, are designed to give you the middle zone: Gray V that reflects 18% of the light. So, what you need in order to have a correct exposure is to measure the light reflecting off of this tone.

Gray card Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

You’ll find gray cards on the market which are used to calibrate your exposure and white balance. They are a very practical and economical way to turn the reading of your reflective light into an incident light accuracy.

It is also very easy to use, you just have to put one in front of your subject and frame it with your camera. Once that’s the only thing in your shot, press the shutter button halfway to see the light meter and adjust your exposure accordingly. With those settings, you can have the perfect exposure regardless of the tones in your image.

Grey cardReading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Exposure: ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/30th.

Real world examples

I know what you’re thinking, that was an unreal example because most of your photos will have much more colors than just black, white and gray V. That’s true, but the principle remains the same. Look at these real life examples:

Bridge Reflective - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Reflective reading with an exposure of ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/80th.

Compared to the incident reading:

Bridge Incident - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Incident reading with an exposure of ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/320th.


How to improvise!

What if you don’t want to be carrying around a gray card? Or did the perfect image catch you unprepared? No problem, everything in the visual world has its equivalent in the zone system.

For example, grass or wet cement correspond to the gray V zone so you can always look for elements like that in your photo and you will get a very accurate reading from them.

Take this composition of candle holders. When they are all white the photo is dark, sad and shows all the imperfections of the backdrop because it’s underexposed. However, when I add a gray candle holder and measure the light in it, the exposure is perfect.

Candleholders Reflective

Exposure: ISO 1250, f/11, shutter speed 1/125th.

Candleholders Incident

Exposure: ISO 1600, f/8, shutter speed 1/125th.

Tip: So that you are never caught off guard, you can measure the palm of your hand and figure out how much lighter or darker it is than the gray card, that way you will always have the perfect reading “at hand”.

Things to remember:

  • Get close enough to the gray object so that it’s the only thing you see through the lens, or at least the majority of it, and take that reading to set the exposure values.
  • The gray card or object needs to receive the same light as the rest of the scene. Be careful to not cast a shadow with your body or your camera when getting closer to measure the light.
  • Reflective light depends also on the material and shape of the object so a black car, for example, reflects more light than a black wool sweater.

There you go, understanding the difference between reflective and incident light can transform your photo from snapshots to pro shots!

The post How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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