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Some Annoying Things About Photography and Cameras

26 May

Photography gave me a creative outlet in life, and I owe so much to it. It’s my form of escape and a way to relax. It pushes me to explore new places and it gets me out the door. I love it dearly.

That being said, there’s a lot about photography that annoys the heck out me, and here’s a list of everything I can’t stand. As a side note, I hope you don’t mind that I illustrate this article with some zen photography instead of pictures of the things that annoy me. That would just get my heart rate up too high.

Disclaimer: This article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and have some fun. Don’t take it at all seriously, please!

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Buttons

Have you seen a Nikon camera these days?? Most people will never need half of those buttons in their lifetime. Can’t they invent a camera that only needs a few buttons? Where is Apple when you need them?

But seriously, I wish more camera companies put extra time into thinking about ergonomics, design, and making everyday use more pleasant rather than trying to pack each camera with new unneeded features just to lure people into an upgrade.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Lens dust

Last time I changed lenses, I was literally in a vacuum chamber and still a piece of dust got stuck smack in the middle of the sensor. And is there anyone who can clean it easily near me? Nope, because Nikon stopped making repair parts available in order to shut down third party repair companies. So not only do I have to send my Canon camera to the factory for small repairs because my local shops couldn’t stay in business without the Nikon business, but I can’t even find someone locally to quickly clean my sensor.

Yes, I know I can do it myself, but I’d rather have someone trained so that I don’t screw something up.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Filters

Remember that time when you thought you needed all these expensive filters to be a good photographer? While you do need a few filters, everyone goes overboard at some point and now has a filter graveyard drawer.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Megapixels

We don’t need more megapixels Sony! Our computers and external hard drives can barely keep up. Instead, give us better ergonomics, better ISO, faster focusing, and better dynamic range. Which brings me to the next point.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Small cameras with big lenses

What’s the point in a tiny mirrorless camera with a massive 20-pound lens? Is it impossible to make that 24-70mm lens that everyone uses just a little bit smaller? Please take the money from the megapixel blitzkrieg department and put it into the making lenses smaller department.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Tripods

Why are all $ 300 tripods designed to fail after a year of use? I can’t imagine how much money the Planned Obsolescence Manager at Crap Tripod Inc. makes. We all learn this the hard way. We suffer until we get fed up and spend way too much money on a Gitzo that lasts us the rest of our lives and makes us really happy.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

People walking in the way of your shot to get a closer shot

You’re pretending you don’t see me. I’ve been here for an hour. I’m a peaceful man, but I will strangle you with my remote shutter cord and break this tripod over your skull (not really, I’m just kidding!). Oh wait, it’s a Gitzo. This Gitzo will break your skull and then continue to work perfectly fine.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Neck pain

Please don’t carry your tripod over your neck. Use a backpack sometimes instead of a shoulder bag. Pick one lens before you go out the door instead of five. Stretch. Your body will thank you in 20 years when you’re not walking around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Taking an iPhone photo of some sweaty person at a party with overhead lighting and them thinking it’s going to be amazing because I’m a photographer

I’m not Saint Theresa – I can’t perform miracles. Now stop trying to look like a duck.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

People saying, “Isn’t everyone a photographer these days?”

You know, photography is a way for all types of people in all walks of life to find a creative outlet, and there’s a vibrant community of so many fun and interesting people that are drawn to it. But whether you meant it or not, that statement has a demeaning and devaluing undercurrent to it. All of us are completely different as photographers, just as anyone with a pen will write in a completely different way. Just because this amazing community is growing, does not mean that photography should be devalued.

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

When we’re traveling and I can’t skip out on all the fun stuff to take photos

You mean I have to go to a nice dinner at a fun looking place on the water with someone that I love dearly? What the heck – I want to go walk down this dirty alleyway for the next hour to take some moody photographs!

Everything that annoys me about photography and cameras

Conclusion

What things annoy or make you angry about photography or your gear? Please share in the comments below.

The post Some Annoying Things About Photography and Cameras by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Underwater Photography: Tips And Equipment

25 May

There is a lot of intrigue and mystery about underwater photography, but there is also also a lot of information out there about it.  Mostly what you will find when doing your research is information about wildlife photography, but it is still very useful when dealing with Fashion or Beauty Advertising Underwater photography.   I believe what is important is knowing Continue Reading

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Round

22 May

To get a head start on this week’s challenge, first head over to see these 19 images of round subjects. Then come right back!

Weekly Photography Challenge – Round

By FraserElliot

As you set out to photograph round things this week, keep in mind you don’t need to show the full circumference of it, as in the photo above of the lime slices. The viewer can still get the idea that the object is round even if it is only partially shown.

Look all around you (no pun intended) and see what types of things are in fact round or circular. How can you photograph them to look interesting? Think about lens selection, lighting, composition, and processing.

By Manfred Huszar

By murray l

By RHiNO NEAL

By Olli Henze

Share your images below:

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images on the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

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Beyond Human Vision – Seeing More With Photography

20 May

Have you ever been frustrated because you don’t seem to be able to photograph a scene the way it looks to you, with your vision? Maybe you can’t get a sharp image even though the scene is perfectly clear, or perhaps the camera fails to capture the beautiful variety of light in a landscape.

It’s possible that you’re having technical trouble in getting the most from your camera, but it might also be because the human eye and the camera aren’t the same, despite their compelling similarities. For instance, our eyes have a much broader dynamic range than any sensor or film, and our binocular vision gives us amazing depth perception.

But have you ever thought of the ways in which cameras can outperform the vision of your eyes? These aspects of your favorite tool are not obscure quirks, but commonly used techniques that broaden your perception of the world around you.

So let’s dive into the mysteries of the camera! Maybe realizing how photography expands your worldview will make you look at photography (and reality) in a slightly different way.

1. Capturing time

With the camera, you can capture time in different units than your eye does. This, of course, is done by choosing a shutter speed. There isn’t a direct counterpart to shutter speed in human vision, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the camera’s ability to observe the passage of time beyond our own vision.

Beyond vision 01

A long shutter speed of several seconds lets you see movement that isn’t discernible at all or in the same way by vision alone. Exposure: 1/3rd of a second, f/14.0, ISO 100.

Beyond vision 02

Controlling shutter speed is also what makes light painting possible. Exposure: 134 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 100.

Beyond vision 03

Using a really fast shutter speed lets you transform continuous motion that you see as a blur into a frozen instant. I thought I was photographing a bird sitting on a snowy branch, but all I got was a miniature snow flurry. Exposure: 1/500th, f/2.8, ISO 800.

2. Capturing light

Even though your eyes are better than cameras at distinguishing a wide range of light levels in the same frame, the camera can extend your observation of very dark and very light scenes. You can accomplish this by carefully balancing shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Modern cameras allow for ever higher ISO levels, which increase the light sensitivity and allow you to capture images in really dark scenes.

Beyond vision 04

If you’re lucky, you can see The Milky Way with your naked eye. Capturing it with a camera, though, allows you to see even more details of our galaxy. Exposure: 35 seconds, f/4.0, ISO 1600.

3. Field of view

The human field of view is static, about 190 degrees depending on the anatomy of your face. By using lenses, you can vary that field of view from slightly larger to much smaller.

Beyond vision 05

A wide field of view, but still not as wide as that of most humans. Exposure: 1/13th, f/7.1, ISO 400.

Beyond vision 06

A very small (narrow) field of view. This close-up, or macro, shows the tiny details of a fungus growing. Exposure: 1/25th, f/6.3, ISO 100.

4. Depth of field

Although you can’t control it, your eyes do have a changeable aperture called the pupil. It’s difficult to find information on exactly what kind of apertures the human eye can pull off. But whether the camera can do more or less, the effects of a small or large depth of field differ between eyes and cameras.

Examples of this are bokeh, which is achieved by a large aperture (small depth of field), and the starburst effects caused by a very small aperture (large depth of field).

Beyond vision 07

Snow and ice crystals creating bokeh. Exposure: 1/100th, f/4.0, ISO 160.

Beyond vision 08

Starburst over a snowy sea. Exposure: 1/500th, f/20.0, ISO 100.

5. Color

Although cameras have been designed to capture the same colors that we see, some can detect color in a very different way, including sensors used mainly by scientists to detect ultra-violet, infrared, or other parts of the non-visible spectrum.

The ability of some film to capture black and white offers us a new way to see the world, focusing on tones rather than colors. You can also make black and white photographs with a digital camera, though this is almost always a conversion from color to monochrome, either in-camera or in post-processing (there are a couple of monochrome digital cameras available on the market, but they are neither common nor cheap).

Beyond vision 09

A monochrome vision – this photo was taken as a color image, then converted to black and white in post-processing. Exposure: 1/80th, f/4.0, ISO 1250.

Conclusion

Can you come up with more things that the camera can do but you can’t? Do you think your camera helps extend your vision – both literally and metaphorically? I’d love to hear from you and see some of your creations in the comments section below.

The post Beyond Human Vision – Seeing More With Photography by Hannele Luhtasela-el Showk appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Improve your Photography in 21 Days

19 May

The web is saturated with top ten lists of how to be a better photographer. Heck, I’ve even written a number of them myself. Yet, one has to wonder, how much better can someone really become after reading just one article? Wouldn’t a larger transformation involving several weeks or months be necessary?

Depending on your current amount of personal bandwidth, you may not like the answer. There are some shortcuts, but ultimately you are looking at a minimum of 21 days to really make an impact.

Better photographer 21 days 02

For an even deeper understanding of how it all works, you need to dedicate a little bit of time every day for three weeks. It’s a big commitment, I know, but at the end of this period you will be shooting with the best of them. In the grand scheme of things, it’s actually not that long. Just 21 days is all it will take. Let’s get started with the essentials.

Week 1

Day #1 – Believe in Yourself

I know it’s only day one, but this first step is a critical part of your growth as a photographer. It’s where you tune-out your inner critic and start thinking positively. The transformation your thoughts can make is truly remarkable. Be careful though, negative patterns will try to creep back in. Squash them as they arise and replace them with something positive about yourself. This tip is first because it’s the foundation that everything else is built upon. Without it, you’re building a house on sand.

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Author, Normal Vincent Peale.

Better photographer 21 days 10

Day #2 – Get a Library Card

Amazon is convenient, but the library has its own charm. It’s where you’ll find treasures you didn’t realize you were looking for. It’s in those long aisles full of books that you’ll find a heaping dose of inspiration. Flip through the pages, study how the masters composed and created their shots. Look for titles by Ernst Haas, Eliot Porter, Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, Ansel Adams, and more.

Don’t stop there, however. Take the time to learn about photographers you’ve never heard of. Read about what inspired them to get started and any tips they may offer. One of my favorites is the Nature Photography Field Guide by John Shaw. He has the simplest way of teaching the most complex topics, including manual metering.

“Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library.” – Henri Frederic Amiel.

Day #3 – Face Your Fears

If there is some type of photography that really freaks you out, make a concerted effort to schedule time for it. Perhaps you only shoot landscapes and nature. If so, now is the time to try your hand at portraiture or street photography.

Better photographer 21 days 06

I talk to many photographers who never use flash and claim that they only use natural light. That sounds reasonable, but deep down you know it’s just an excuse to avoid learning about guide numbers, slave units, TTL, etc. Don’t avoid this step as it will come back to haunt you later on. The more educated you are, the more jobs you’ll be able to accept. This will make all the difference in your potential earnings, should you choose to go pro.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie.

Day #4 – Reach Out for Help

Okay, so you’ve identified your weakness, but you have no idea where to turn for guidance. This is where you get to wave the flag and ask for help from a professional. Sure you can visit a photography forum, but you may get poor advice from amateurs or those who think they know it all. A better option is to find a local mentor or one who offers online training and Skype calls. Many sites offer this type of service for a reasonable fee.

Better photographer 21 days 05

Regardless of who you use, be sure to check out their work, and read any testimonials from past students. With a trusted advocate by your side, you can speed up the learning process. If you’re hesitant about seeking guidance, consider this; asking for assistance proves your strength, not your weakness.

Day #5 – Learn a New Camera Feature

Cameras have never been so sophisticated. Unlike the cameras of old, they are essentially mini computers. With such features like live view, autofocus tracking, electronic viewfinders, histograms, and white balance. It can seem daunting at times. Yet if you don’t get ahead of technology, you risk being left behind.

That’s why I recommend upgrading your camera every few years. It doesn’t mean your current camera is no longer relevant, but consider using it as a backup to your new model. If purchasing isn’t a viable option right now, then I’d recommend renting a camera for a week or so.

Better photographer 21 days 07

If you’ve only used DSLRs, then a mirrorless camera would be an eye-opening experience. Another educational experience is to really dig into the camera menu. Mess with every button and play with every feature. Keep the camera manual nearby to cross reference anything you’re not sure of, and learn it.

Day #6 – Start a Website

There is no excuse for a Facebook page being used as a website (especially if you want to do this as a business). Your web presence is the first impression people will have of your work, and you know what they say about first impressions. When someone is viewing your images for the first time, send them to a professional website with big bold images, a contact page, and perhaps a short bio.

Today there are totally free options like Wix and Weebly which are perfect for slick portfolio pages. If you want a more powerful platform, check out Squarespace with their photography templates and e-commerce integration.

“First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.” – Elliott Abrams.

Day #7 – Create a Savings Plan to Buy Good Gear

Better photographer 21 days 11

Lenses are a long-term investment, and as such, they are usually quite expensive. Still, a good lens will absolutely make a big impact on your work. For example, a professional quality lens will typically be sharper, faster to focus, easier to create a shallow depth of field with, and have a tougher build for all-weather conditions.

I would go as far as saying that the lens will make more of a difference than the camera. For this reason, it makes sense to build your kit with quality glass. Rather than starting off in photography with debt, start a savings fund for photography gear. Anytime you make extra money (from your photography or otherwise), save a portion of it. If you’re working a day job, try to squirrel away a little each paycheck.

When you do eventually purchase your lens, be sure to pick up a quality UV filter to protect the glass. I once saw a rented 300mm lens smash to the cement. The filter was shattered in hundreds of little pieces while the lens itself was 100% intact.

Better photographer 21 days 14

Week 2

Day #8 – Accept Your Faults

Whether you’re a reclusive introvert or an over-the-top outgoing type A, there is a type of photography for you. The trick is to work with your faults, not against them. If you’re not a people person, perhaps wedding photography isn’t the best role for you. Instead, consider a more solitary pursuit such as travel or wildlife photography. For those with the gift of gab, portraiture might be a perfect fit.

“The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Day #9 – Embrace Success

It sounds counter-intuitive but many people are actually afraid to succeed. Similar to the fear of failure, this can hold one back from fulfilling their dreams. Because success is heavy, it carries a responsibility. It is much easier to procrastinate and live on the “someday I’ll do it” philosophy. Don’t sabotage yourself! Stay focused on all of the good things success can bring.

Better photographer 21 days 19

The writer Denis Waitley says – “People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now.”

Day #10 – Commit to Waking Up an Hour Earlier

I’m not talking about catching sunrise every day, but simply using the extra hour towards your passion for photography. This could be blogging, working on your website, studying, networking, or editing photos. There are endless ways to use the time. Of course, it’s also the best time to take photos as well. Besides there being no one around to spoil your composition, the light is spectacular at dawn and sunrise. It’s also when wildlife and birds are most active.

The coach, George Allen, Sr. said – “Work hard, stay positive, and get up early. It’s the best part of the day.”

Day #11 – Build an “I Quit” Fund

Imagine handing your boss a resignation letter to pursue your career in photography. It happened to me, and it can be your reality as well. Ideally, you want about six months of reserve funds, you can probably get by with three. I know this sounds like a tall order, but it all starts with a single step.

Better photographer 21 days 13

Start a special savings account and add to it every month with funds from your day job. Need help raising the cash? Raid your chest of photo gear and sell anything you haven’t used in at least a year. If you need more, get a part-time job for a while. Eventually, you’ll have enough to leave behind a job you are unhappy with and begin your new career as a photographer.

Day #12 – Meet People in Real Life

Social networks are terrific, but face to face meetings are even more valuable. You may be wondering where to find these like-minded people. Start by joining a local camera club, or visiting a nearby art gallery. Perhaps you can take a photography class at a community college in your area. Bring your business cards to popular photography spots and talk to fellow photographers. You can exchange tips, geek out over gear talk, and share favorite locations.

As another perk, they may recommend you for a job they aren’t interested in. You can potentially get work and experience by simply being cordial. Hey, you may even make some friends along the way. The photo industry is small, so it pays to stick together.

Better photographer 21 days 04

Day #13 – Listen to Your Heart

I know, it’s the title of a song by the 80s band, Roxette. That’s not the point. What is important is to find your passion.

When you look around the web it’s easy to slip into a nasty funk. Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing, even if they’re successful. Follow your gut and do the type of photography that makes you happy. Some people may tell you that being a jack of all trades is not wise. However, if you feel like photographing all kinds of subjects, don’t let anyone stand in your way.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs.

Day #14 – Ask for More Work

It sounds painful, I know, but seeking out more photography work could be one of the best decisions you make. Go on Craigslist, offer to be a second shooter at a wedding. Ask to assist on a portrait shoot, or offer your editing help to a local studio. You have to create your own opportunities as jobs will rarely fall in your lap. As you gain more experience, you’ll also enjoy more exposure.

Better photographer 21 days 20

“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” – Charles Kettering.

Week 3

Day #15 – Invest in Your Mind

Invest in yourself, as there is nothing more valuable than your future. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

For photographers, this can be done in a number of ways. Group workshop are a terrific way to expedite the learning curve. If you prefer one-on-one training, you can take private photography lessons. Of course, not all of your efforts have to be paid options. Watching free online tutorials and reading articles (like those here on dPS!) will cost nothing but your time.

Day #16 – Take a Sick Day

You know those extra hours you’ve been saving up at work? Use one day for a photography outing. There are rarely awards for perfect attendance, so what’s the point? There’s nothing quite like an impromptu road trip to lift your spirits and break you out of a creative rut.

Better photographer 21 days 16

Everyone deserves a day to pursue their passion, plus, you’ll be more productive when you return to work. Recharging your batteries is a necessary way to strike a balance between work and play. This is an essential step, so don’t skip it.

Day #17 – Do Volunteer Work

Not only will this make you feel good, but you are using your skills to make the world a kinder place. Coincidentally, my entire business started by volunteering a single print to a non-profit organization’s fundraiser. The winner was an amateur photographer in a nearby town. She reached out to see if I did private lessons. Fast forward nearly 10 years, and I now teach photography full-time.

Although it’s a hotly debated topic, it can absolutely pay to work for free on occasion. Bare in mind, I’m not talking about shooting a wedding for free. The idea is to find an organization you can back, and donate your time or services to them for an afternoon.

“Research has shown that people who volunteer often live longer.” – Allen Klein.

Better photographer 21 days 12

Day #18 – Forget the Haters

When people are hateful, remember this quote by author Shannon L. Adler, “You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.”

Let’s face it, some people will just not be happy when you’re on the verge of something great. Don’t take it personally, as it’s their issue, not yours. Perhaps the most common place for haters to lurk is online, especially in blog post comments or on photography forums. There are even “trolls” who look to instigate trouble under anonymous names. They want you to engage and waste your time. Don’t take the bait, expend your energy, or let them limit your success. They don’t deserve your attention which can be used for much more positive things.

Day #19 – Cut Out Bad Habits

Do you leave your camera on automatic and just fire away? If so, you are doing yourself a disservice. Work to break these bad habits once and for all. Put the camera into manual mode and learn how to properly expose by using the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. This is one area where there are no shortcuts. Without it, it’s like you are driving blindfolded.

Better photographer 21 days 09

Bad habits aren’t formed overnight. Similarly, it will require considerable effort to break them. In photography, you need to be your own coach. This requires that you be honest with yourself. If you catch yourself cheating, replace the bad habit with the proper steps immediately.

“People try to change too much at once and it becomes overwhelming, and they end up falling off the program. So gradually changing bad habits makes much more of a difference than trying to change them all at once.” – Ian K. Smith.

Day #20 – Plan the Night Before

Laying out your clothes the night before is always helpful, but what about taking it a step further. Imagine how much more productive you could be if you planned the entire next day before hitting the sack. This is especially important when you want to spend time doing photography. It involves charging all batteries, formatting memory cards, packing your gear, getting the tripod ready, and gassing up the car. Don’t leave these things for the last minute or you’ll end procrastinating.

Better photographer 21 days 03

It may also help to write down your five most important goals for the next day. Block out the time, add them to your calendar and get ready to have a terrific adventure. If you need caffeine to get going, be sure to set the coffee pot to automatically brew the next morning.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer.

Day #21 – Start a Journal

You don’t need to write like Anais Nin to keep a journal. For photographers, a simple notebook with sketches and ideas can have a number of benefits. For one, you’ll retain more information by writing it down. You can even spark your creativity by capturing your thoughts in a daydream.

Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal says, “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable.” This means that complex topics can be worked out on paper in a way that’s easy to digest. Mistakes can be documented as well as solutions. When you look back at it, you can see just how far you’ve come. This ushers in a feeling of accomplishment and encourages you to keep going.

Better photographer 21 days 08

Conclusion

So is it possible to improve your photography in three weeks? I believe it is, and the keys to do so are listed above.

Granted, it’s going to be hard work, but you’ve read this far so you must be hungry for change. In addition to transforming your photography, some of these items can improve the quality of your life. Of course, it doesn’t all happen at once and will require patience. Stick with the program for 21 days, however, and you’ll see the impact.

Consider this my personal guarantee to you. If you really try the steps in this article, I promise you’ll not only be a better photographer but a happier person as well. Leave me a note in the comments to let me know about your progress.

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How to do Creative Water Splash Photography with Off-Camera Flash

19 May

Photography gives us the unique opportunity to freeze time. Moments that normally can’t be seen because they occur in the blink of an eye can suddenly be captured by a camera with incredible precision. This gives us the opportunity to discover fascinating and unique opportunities for photography that showcase and celebrate the wonder of the world around us. It can also be an extremely fun and creative style of photography, and a way to practice your skills with off-camera flash.

A toy car dropped into water, photographed with off-camera flash

Chances are you’ve come across a photo of a water droplet or water splash before. The intricate and mesmerizing patterns of water droplets in flight make for excellent abstract art.

But how can you take a picture fast enough? How does it work to freeze each individual droplet in midair?

A water droplet frozen in midair with off-camera flash photography

Lightning Fast Photography

Most modern cameras can take a picture as fast as 1/8000th of a second. You’ve probably noticed, however, that lightning fast shutter speeds typically require a lot of light.

If you are walking around outdoors on a bright and sunny, you will be able to get your camera up to 1/8000th, and you can capture a water fight or the splash of a water fountain. However, there often isn’t enough light to take a good image indoors or under cloudy lighting conditions.

Water droplets splashing into a jar, photographed with off-camera flash

Furthermore, taking a picture under sunny lighting conditions won’t hide the background. The intricacies of the water will be lost against the background.

That’s why the trick to creating a truly amazing water image is to use off-camera flash.

How it works

Cameras only record what they see. This means that a picture taken in a dark room will result in a pitch black picture.

When you use flash in a dark room, your subject will be illuminated for the duration of the flash of light – which means that your new “shutter speed” will be the speed at which your flash fires (flash duration).

Depending on the model and power, a flash can fire as quickly as 1/10,000th of a second. This new shutter speed of 1/10,000th of a second is easily fast enough to freeze a water droplet in midair.

A water droplet, frozen in midair with off-camera flash

This shot was taken using the settings 1/250, f/5,6, ISO 250. Even with the “slow” shutter speed, the flash stops the water droplet in mid-flight.

The neat thing here is that as long as the room is dark, the shutter speed on your camera doesn’t actually even matter anymore. With the right setting, your camera can take an image that lasts for a full second long, but the final shot will only be recorded in the blazing fast burst of light from the flash.

Setting up your shot

To try this out for yourself, you will need to set up in a fairly dark room – dark enough so that you can use your in-camera settings to take a completely black picture. You’ll need to get off Auto mode in order to do this.

Remember that the aperture and ISO that you select will affect your flash power. Selecting either a wider aperture or a higher ISO will make your camera more sensitive to light, including the light from your flash. This makes your flash more powerful, in a way.

For this purpose, I used the following setup:

A behind the scenes shot of the setup for water splash photography

Note the towel. A towel just might be the most important piece of equipment to remember when you try water splash photography!

Even though there is still some light in the room, I was able to create a dark background by setting my camera to 1/250, f/5, ISO 250.

Get the flash off-camera

The key is to use the flashes off-camera. Having the light come in at an angle is more in line with how we experience light in the real world, so it produces a more naturally lit image.

But you don’t need to have multiple flashes to try this out – experiment with one flash and see what happens!

More importantly, by bringing the light in from an angle and preventing it from shining on the walls or objects behind your subject, you can create a dark background. This really makes each droplet shimmer and shine in contrast.

Two tomatoes splashing into water, shot with off-camera flash

A toy car splashing into water, photography with off-camera flash

Two common ways of triggering a flash off-camera are to use either a radio transmitter or a sync cord that connects your camera’s hotshoe to the flash itself. Your camera may also be able to fire your off-camera flash optically using the built-in pop-up flash. You may need to check your camera’s manual to see if your system has that functionality.

The exact power settings you will need to use on your flash will vary depending on the type of flash, the setup, and the distance between your flash and the splash you are photographing.

Remember: Digital is cheap! Experiment and watch your camera’s LCD screen after every shot. If it is too dark, simply turn up the flash power or consider moving your lights a bit closer to the subject.

Getting the timing right

Once you have everything set up, it’s simply a matter of trial and error! Even with a fancy setup, perfecting your timing in order to capture a splash at the right moment is tough.

Unless you have a high end strobe unit, you won’t be able to take pictures quickly – the batteries will need a moment to recharge every time they fire. This means you’ve only got one shot for every splash!

A man photographed with off-camera flash as he is hit by water in the face

If you get tired of using toy cars as a model, why not ask a friend to step in?

Every camera has a very slight delay after you press the shutter button (before it actually takes the picture). You’ll want to work on your timing so that you can make the most of every shot – especially if you ask a friend to stand in as a target for a water splash picture!

Shooting digital allows you to experiment until you have a good sense of the timing. After a bit of practice, you will have some incredible and creative water splashes to show for your effort!

A man being photographed splashing water while on a black background

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6 Steps To Better Photography

19 May

A few weeks ago I received an email from a new photographer who asked, “How do I make my images better?” At first, I chuckled, realizing that question has resulted in the production of thousands of articles here at dPS, and uncountable books, websites, and magazines. There is just SO MUCH information on how to do better photography that it’s easy to get lost in the sea of advice, photo tips, and expert opinion.

better photography

In my response to that struggling photographer, I sketched out six things and quickly sent the email. My answer was off the cuff, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my advice was actually pretty darn good. These six things really will help you improve your photographs. Some are easy to accomplish and some reach to the core of the art of photography. All of them, however, will push you further into your process and lead you a bit closer to the images you’ve always wanted to create.

Better photography

Aerial image of the Hula Hula River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

1. Know Your Camera

This is the easiest one to tackle. One of the places where I’ve noticed new photographers stumbling is having a poor understanding of their camera. Know what each setting means, what it does to your image, and how to quickly change from one to another. Know the five essential camera settings backward and forwards, how to set them, and what impact they will have on your final image.

Better photography

Understanding how bright, snowy conditions will impact your image, and your camera’s ability to meter correctly will allow you to quickly capture fleeting light like this, when others may stumble.

But don’t stop there. Spend some time in the menus and custom settings. Know things like focus and metering modes, and how those relate to different shooting situations.

I recently added a new camera system to my quiver (Panasonic Lumix) and am having to re-learn all these things for a new camera brand. It is daunting, but it is also extremely important. Get friendly with your camera until you understand it intimately. Then, when you are in the field and need to make changes quickly, you won’t have to think twice, or god-forbid, have to look it up while your opportunity slips away.

2. Learn the Rules

Better photography

Rule of thirds composition. It’s a “rule” because it usually works.

If you’ve spent much time reading about photography online, you’ll have read the words “Break the rules!” so often it’s become a platitude. Everyone is pushing you to break rules, but there is very little discussion about the rules themselves, what they mean, and why they should be broken. The fact of the matter is that the “rules” of photography are guidelines for a reason – they often work.

better photography

The “rule of thirds” for example, is effective because it results in a pleasing composition. (There is a mathematical reason for this, but a complete discussion of the topic is beyond the scope of this article.)

Proper focus, exposure, and color balance are all “rules” because they result in a pleasing image. Know how to effectively achieve these in your images again and again in a variety of shooting situations. Once you’ve mastered the “rules”, you can move beyond them (see #6 below).

3. Study Images Until You Know WHY They Work

As you are browsing through images on the internet, in magazines, or books, take a few minutes to study the photos that catch your eye and consider:

  1. What did you first see that captured your interest? Was there an action, color, or story that was compelling?
  2. How does your eye move through the image? At what point do you lose interest?
  3. What colors or points of contrast are interesting?
  4. Is there a story being told? What is it?
better photography

What about this image catches your eye? Is it something else that causes you to linger?

Images can be effective alone, in groups, or as part of a larger story being told in the surrounding text. Social media has a tendency to raise up stand alone images, but I encourage you to go farther. Good images are often a part of stories, and stories need to go somewhere. Sometimes that’s to the next photo in the series, sometimes it’s integrated into the text.

Successful photographers know this, and will cater their images to reflect the context. Magazines like National Geographic are very good at it, and many of the images in their pages do not stand alone well, but work beautifully within the context of the story being told.

better photography

Consider the images carefully, how they do, or do not integrate with their surroundings, and then try to reverse engineer them. How did the photographer create the photo? Is there artificial light? What exposure was likely used? Often there is a reason why successful photographer’s images look a certain way. See if you can suss that out by looking.

4. Make Lots and Lots of Photos

There is an old adage about becoming a good writer, “Write every day.” It’s no different with photography. Practice is vital. Make images, waste pixels. Delete lots, but make images, one way or another.

better photography

An atypical composition on a bright, flat-light day. The almost upside-down composition makes this image successful despite the poor light.

When you have successful images, study them as I recommended above in #3 to find out why they worked, and what you could have done to make them even better. Honest self-critique is tough. We can almost always find a way to justify our errors or to overlook the mistakes we make. We have a tendency to like our own images because they remind us of our experiences creating them, but our viewers don’t share those memories. The experience of viewing the images has to be sufficient.

Try to look at your photos as an outsider would, take note of the distracting elements, the clumsy balance, or off-kilter compositions. Consider would could be better, and work toward that goal your next time you’re out with your camera.

5. Travel

Getting away from our home environment is a great way to find inspiration. That can be a trip to some photogenic destination a world away, or simply driving to a different part of town. The trick is to break out of your rut, and make some new images.

better photography

When you come eye to eye with a grizzly bear, it’s easy to get overly excited and screw up your images. But, if you have the fundamentals of photography and your camera controls mastered, your odds of success improve dramatically.

New places also tend to inspire, but I caution you here. More than once, at a new place, I’ve been so enthusiastic to make images, oohing and aahing at the sights I’m seeing, that I failed to pay attention to the basics (See #1 and #2). I have utterly blown entire mornings of beautiful light because I was so caught up in the excitement that I didn’t notice my compositions were wonky, or my exposures were blown out.

Escape your normal routine, but always remember the fundamentals of photography.

6. Become Your Own Photographer

better photography

Storm light, shadows, and the sun, play across the northern foothills of Alaska’s Brooks Range. It isn’t a classic composition, yet I knew this image would work when I made it.

Much of the advice I’ve shared here relies on comparing your own work to that of others. This is a great way to learn, but eventually, you run the risk of stagnating, or worse, imitating others.

better photography

Every shooter is inspired by the work of other photographers. We all have gone through stages where we want to make similar images (or even identical) to what others have made. That’s why some sites are so famous: the Firefall in Yosemite, the bears catching salmon in Katmai National Park, the Tetons over the Snake River. Photographers crowd these locations, trying desperately to emulate, imitate, or re-create famous images they’ve seen before. This can be a great way to learn, but please don’t stop there.

better photography

Nothing about the lighting in this image follows the rules. It was blistering hot, midday, washout light. If I had followed the rules, I would never have lifted my camera.

Once you’ve mastered the basics and have a strong understanding of what makes an image succeed or fail, it’s time to break out on your own. Make images for yourself, compositions that are a-typical, weird, strangely composed and focused. Take the rules of composition, focus, and exposure and push their limits. Here is where the rules can be bent and broken. This is where you experiment, play, and most of the time – fail utterly.

But sometimes you won’t fail. Sometimes, that strange composition, that weird exposure, will work, and work beautifully.

better photography

Make images because they speak to you, not because you think your Instagram followers will like them. When you break away from what you think is expected, and to what you care about, your images will become your own. For me, this took a long time, but once I found my groove, my own style, I started enjoying the art of photography even more.

better photography

Caribou in winter on the arctic coastal plain of northern Alaska. Nothing typical about the lighting or composition of this image, yet it’s one of my favorite wildlife images. I’ve never seen another image like this, and that’s a big part of what I like about it.

Conclusion

Don’t try and please everyone. If you do, your work will appear generic and it will not push you to excel. In other words, be willing to fail. A willingness to fail will eventually lead to success.

Do you follow these six tips? Do you have any others that you would suggest to beginners to help them do better photography? Please share in the comments below.

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How to Improve Your Art – The Creative Process in Photography

19 May

As photographers, we all want to be constantly improving our work. However, often this can seem like an uphill struggle, especially when you are just starting out. As an art form, photography is all about the creative process and exploring ideas through images, but in order to really create great images you need to put a plan in place for your own development; especially focused on skills, inspiration, purpose and output. By tackling these elements you can focus your mind and develop your work, to help you produce better and more refined art every time you go out on location.

Creating prints as a final output

Skills – The Basics

In order to get on to the creative elements, having a solid understanding of the base knowledge first is integral to improving your art as a photographer. I’m not going to go into detail here about understanding exposure, depth of field, composition, etc., but these are key things to spend time on.

It may seem like a huge task, but with solid work you can come to grips with being able to shoot in full manual mode easily within a month. After that point, you need to understand the basics as well as the layout of your camera’s functions, helping to make it an extension of yourself and not a distraction from your intended subject. There are a large number of fantastic tutorials here on dPS that can help you to get up to speed and really understand the basics.

Knowing your settings

Focus Days

Taking your learning further is all about practice and persistence, so think about spending a few days focused on certain image types. Set yourself the task of going out the door to just shoot panning images, wide angles, bokeh, etc. This will help you to formulate the skills in your photographer’s arsenal and produce more creative images for the future.

No matter how many years you have been shooting, testing yourself and constantly putting in the time will always help you improve. If you can’t find a whole day, why not a lunch break at work? Small efforts done consistently lead to great results.

Working on a local project

Restrict Yourself

Creativity is something people often believe thrives with options, but in honesty, having too many things to choose from can often dilute your vision and reduce the creativity within your images. Restrict yourself by focusing on a single subject for an extended period of time. Build a long term project in your garden or local nature reserve and keep returning to build upon your images.

Working with primes

Another option is to work with a single focal length or prime lens to explore how you can make the most of what you’ve got. If you don’t have a prime lens use a piece of gaffer tape to hold your zoom lens in position to stop the temptation of zooming in or out. These practices will enhance your skills when it comes to general shooting, as you will be able to quickly select and formulate the ways and ideas you want to shoot.

Create a prime using gaffers tape

Record

In order to get the best out of the images you are taking and the skills you are learning, remember to record them. Working with a simple notebook or online workbook, evaluate the images you have taken for successes and failures, in order to cement the lessons in your mind and learn from your work.

Sketchbook for taking notes

Inspiration

Inspiration is very important for your development as a photographer. Without constant inspiration it can be hard to formulate ideas and develop on past work. Staying inspired doesn’t just mean looking at other photographer’s work, as often over-saturaturation of a single medium can result in less creativity. So it’s better to take input from as wide a range of sources as possible.

Galleries

A traditional showcase of artwork, galleries are still a fantastic option for gaining some inspiration. The variety of work on show, from ancient works such as stone carvings and cave paintings, through to impressionism and modernism, really do offer a superb variety of visual stimuli. Often, to get the best out of them, attending a tour or showcase day can help, giving you the backstories of the work as well as explaining the techniques and mediums used. This knowledge will inform, and allow you to formulate your own processes when creating images in the field.

Nature

As a wildlife photographer, nature is a huge inspiration to me. Heading out on walks, be it with or without a camera, is a great way to soak up some atmosphere. Look at light and shape of the landscape, and pull in ideas for future images.

Architecture

Looking for line and shape

Buildings offer fantastic inspiration for photography. Lines, form and shape are used to make striking structures and can be a excellent source of inspiration. Focus on looking for the way the shapes are used to form elegant structures or draw your eye to a pivotal point. Additionally, take note of the way shadows form, as this will help you imagine and anticipate lighting for future images.

Online

In the modern world the internet has a huge amount to offer, and with so many fantastic resources it is full of inspiration. Taking a look at photographers’ portfolios, or the feeds of 500px, Flickr, etc. offer superb images that can be the perfect inspiration for your own work. One thing to avoid is that of visual trends, copying styles just because they are popular. It is always worth noting that just because an image doesn’t have many Likes or Favourites” does not deny its worth as inspiration, as images will always mean different things to different people.

In person

A great way to find inspiration is to become part of a community. Heading to events in the photography world such as exhibitions or trade shows can provide a great way to meet like-minded people as well as see some excellent work. Also, think about looking for a local photography group or club. Many areas have these and they offer a great chance to meet up and discuss work and camera techniques with your peers, all the while helping you improve and develop your skills.

Record (again)

Just as above, it’s very important to also record your inspirations. Write down the names of artists and photographers you want to look up, and make notes on what you like and dislike about certain images and media. All of these thoughts and feelings are great to revisit when creating to help formulate and focus your own work. Remember to keep that notebook handy!

Purpose

Back Garden wildlife

Creativity often needs purpose and so do your images.The most powerful images almost always have a purpose behind them, be it to tell stories, stir emotion, tempt us, or give us a glimpse into something we’ve never seen before. Images with purpose have greater strength.

When wanting to improve your own images look for purpose within your shots. Tell stories through single images or start to work on documenting a larger idea through multiple images. Have the story in your head and shoot frames to help tell it pictorially. Stories don’t need to be huge photojournalist essays, instead start off by just showcasing the mundane, everyday occurrences.

Training yourself to make powerful images of these situations will equip you with the necessary skills for more exciting opportunities in the future. Working on a local project, be it in your back garden or local community, means you can spend a great deal of time focused on your images as well as developing your story and vision.

Always ask yourself the following;

  • Why am I creating this image?
  • What am I trying to show?
  • What are the key elements in this story?
  • How can I find a unique angle?

These thoughts will help you work toward creating stronger images with purpose and meaning, leading to far more creative photography.

Taking inspiration from architecture

Output

Art deserves to be shown and deciding how you are going to output your final work is a great way to focus your creativity. In the modern world, most images just end up on a hard drive, away from the light of day where no one can see them. With all the work and effort you are putting into them, they deserve more.

In terms of being creative with your work, think about how it should best be shown. Often people lean toward online media, showcasing work through the likes of Flickr or Facebook, Although these are a great way of getting work out there, they can numb the creative and learning process somewhat.

Printing your work

Think about outputting to hard media, printing out your work as well as online platforms. There are loads of great ways to produce photo books, magazines and gallery style prints that will look far better and suit certain bodies of work far more. The creative process of learning to design a photo book, bring together a 12-part print collection, or design a magazine spread, will also be an excellent learning curve to help you when working on future projects.

In addition, there is something to be said for holding a final piece of work in your hands. A finished print really is the ultimate moment for an image. Having passed through all of the creative stages from conception and execution, through to editing and final completion in your hands is a great feeling, and one every photographer deserves after finishing an image.

Conclusion

In order to produce more and more creative work it’s all about focusing on the process. The skills behind creating, the inspiration and purpose behind projects, the final results and how they are output. By taking time to think through these stages you can really focus your mind and produce refined work to be proud of, as well as constant develope your skills and grow as a photographer in the future.

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10 cool DIY photography techniques that anyone can do

18 May
Are you in a creative rut? Do you need some ideas to break out and do something different? This short video by COOPH highlights ten cool photography techniques that anybody can do.
Do you have a favorite DIY technique that’s not in the video? Share it with us!

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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7 Photography Debates – Which Side Are You On?

12 May

Photography is a diverse profession/hobby, and as such there will always be debates around some of its more controversial topics. The important thing is that there is no right or wrong answer, just differences of opinion and ways of working. There have been numerous debates over the years and some of the most famous photographers have taken criticism for their decisions over a photo.

For example, South African photographer, Kevin Carter was criticized for his famous Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a starving Sudanese toddler with a vulture lurking in the background. People felt he should have been helping the child rather than taking the photo. Whether his actions were right or wrong will no doubt be debated for many years to come.

Here are both sides of seven photography debates. Which side do you agree wit or relate to in each?

photography debates

#1 Should you ask permission before taking someone’s photo?

YES – Taking someone’s photo is a personal experience and if someone doesn’t want to have their photograph taken they should have the option of being able to refuse. By asking permission not only are you showing courtesy and respect, but you are also often able to capture more candid and personal photos. People will be more accommodating, and it will also means that there is less chance of offending the person you are photographing which in turn mean less chance of a confrontation.

NO – By asking permission to take someone’s photo you are missing the opportunity to capture them and the situation in its natural state. When the person you are photographing is aware of the camera it might make them nervous and the photo will feel staged. Asking permission also means you might miss the key moment which makes the photo powerful. The other advantage of not asking permission is you can work quickly and so won’t have to answer questions regarding the purpose of the photo.

photography debates

#2 Should you tip someone who poses for you?

YES – If you photograph someone they are giving up their time (no matter how little) for you, so they should be rewarded for it. If you are planning to sell the photo then you are basically gaining commercial value out of that person’s time, so it’s only fair that they are compensated. But even if you are planning to use the photo for your personal use, it is still right to offer that person some payment as a thank you.

NO – Unless that person who is modeling has done so under an agreement with you that they will be paid, then they are doing the modelling out of kindness. Even if you are planning on selling the photo, there is no guarantee that the photograph will sell and so it isn’t fair for you to have to pay for something that may not earn you any money.

photography debates

#3 Is a model release necessary?

YES – Not only will a model release make the photo more valuable commercially, but it means having to either ask the person permission before taking their photo or after you have taken it. It also means that they can be compensated for their time and have agreed to let you use the photo. This will also protect you from potential usage issues.

NO – Unless you are planning on selling the photo for commercial purposes (i.e. advertising a product or service) then a model release isn’t necessary. It also opens up a whole new potential problem of having to explain to that person what the model release is and why it’s needed. This will be difficult if they don’t speak the same language as you.

photography debates

#4 Post-production – is it cheating or not?

YES – A photograph that has been edited in post-production isn’t a true representation of what might actually exist. For example, removing objects that are in the frame (such as dustbins, power lines, etc.) is basically creating a fake scene which is misguiding the viewer. Even enhancing saturations and adjusting highlights and shadows is manipulating a true reflection of the scene and what has been captured.

NO – Even the most advanced cameras are not capable of capturing images like the human eye sees, so any enhancement or adjustment is needed to make the image feel more real. Also, any editing or enhancement of a photo is simply improving on what’s already been captured and not a figment of someone’s imagination. A photographer is trying to capture their vision in a photo and sometimes that may not be possible without post-production.

photography debates

#5 Better gear equals better photos?

YES – Simply put, the better quality of camera and lenses you have, the better the quality of your images will be. For example, a full frame camera will give you more pixels which in turn means more detail and sharper and more vibrant images. This means your images can be made bigger. Better quality lenses also help the sharpness of your images. There’s a reason why professional photographers use expensive camera equipment.

NO – While a better camera and lens might give you bigger images that can be blown up and used in a larger size, it’s the quality of the composition, lighting, and creativity that matter more. Even the most basic camera is capable of capturing amazing looking photos that will wow people. But a mundane or poor photo will still be a poor photo even with the most expensive camera equipment.

photography debates

#6 Photograph for yourself only

YES – You should always photograph what you like and what you enjoy doing. After all, photography is an art and in the same way a dancer would specialize in something they love so should a photographer. Listening to other people only sets you up to become something you’re not rather than being yourself.

NO – As much as everyone would love to just do what they enjoy like any profession, sometimes you have to make sure you take photos that will sell or what a client has paid for. That does mean listening to others, looking at trends in the market, and going beyond your comfort level. But even if photography is a hobby, you will still benefit from taking advice and trying new things that might end up improving you as a photographer.

photography debates

#7 Digital photography has made photographers better

YES – The explosion of digital photography has meant that photographers have to become better and see and photograph things in new ways. The advancements in digital cameras and lenses have meant more control for the photographer and as a result, images that portray their vision better.

NO – Digital photography means that photographers can be lazier in both the composition and the taking of the actual photo. With photo editing software photographers don’t have to wait for the clear shot as they can simply remove that person that’s in the way in post-production. Digital photography has also meant that photographers can be less sure about a photo as there is no cost implication of just snapping away. In the days of film, every photo wasted was a few cents gone so as a photographer you had to be much more selective.

Kav Dadfar-Debate-Article-DPS-Debate

Summary

There’s no doubt that everyone who reads this article will have different opinions on these debates. Like all topics which drum up a debate, there is no right or wrong answer. So, what do you think? Which side of the arguments do you sit on?

Share your thoughts, reasons, and arguments for and against below.

Editor’s note: Let’s keep it friendly and be kind to others though please – even if we disagree, we can still act like adults and keep it civil.  

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