5 Easy Tips That Will Help You Turn Pro

The first rule of being successful at anything, whether it’s photography, bull riding or playing the stocks, is to never stop honing your skill. Those that are the most successful in their craft continue to evolve their perspective and learn from their experiences. It has taken decades for the art of photography to become what it is with the foundation of principals that it has. Those that came before us and before you, as you are sitting here reading this blog, have created some basic knowledge and understandings that continue to remain true for the most professional of photographers. In this week’s blog, we have 5 quick and easy tips that are favorites of the pros but often missed by those just starting out. When put into everyday practice, these 5 little gems will help you get consistently excellent shots and turn you from an amateur to a pro.

Pro Tip #1: Lock in your focus.

Focus is focus. It’s where your eye is drawn first and then becomes the focal point of the entire image. If you are trying to get more than one subject to remain in focus in your shot, point at your first subject area and hold your shutter button half way down. This means your focus is now locked and you are free to move to the remaining portions of your image and finish pushing down the shutter release button. Your camera will not be able to readjust, which is what always ends up leaving your initial subject matter blurred and fuzzy.

Pro Tip #2: Move your point of focus.

I know I know, it is literally the exact opposite of what the first point says, but that doesn’t make it wrong and we’ll tell you why. When you look through your viewfinder, you see that rectangle or square or circle right? Well that is your camera’s “auto focus” point. Whatever happens to be in that sweet spot of your view finder will be the most focused portion of your picture. However, the sneaky truth about a camera’s auto focus is that you can move that AF point to correspond with the way you are composing your picture. Thus, both a brilliantly sharp and artfully composed image. What was that? Did I just hear someone whisper “pro”…?

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Flickr dojoklo

Pro Tip #3: Get real close and use a high shutter speed.

One of the most underrated skills of photography is getting in close. Real close. Famous photographer, Robert Capa has been quoted saying, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Don’t let your fear of getting in someone’s or something’s personal space stop you from getting the shot you truly want. They’ve already agreed to be photographed and therefore are already on display. What could it hurt to get in a bit closer? The important thing about getting in close though is that any teeny tiny movement will be detected and captured in your photos. Therefore, make sure to set your camera to a high shutter speed so when you push the shutter release, it can instantly capture the image with little or none of that camera shake. (Check out more tips on how to manage camera shake).

Pro Tip #4: Don’t edit it later, recompose in the moment!

Our blog post a couple weeks ago was all about the magic of Photoshop. We love it, we really do, but one thing we love more, is recomposing and getting your exact subject matter the first time. It may not take you very long to crop out that telephone pole or funky cloud arrangement but it will take you even less time to adjust yourself or the shot in your viewfinder in the moment. Photoshop should be reserved for enhancing the slight details of your shot, not completely recreating it. That job is up to you and the YOU is what makes your shots individual, desirable and emotional. The magic of you as an artist trumps the magic of Photoshop any day of the week!

Pro Tip #5: Be a harsh critique when editing.

You’ve heard it before but we’re gonna say it again…less is more. The best way to exhibit yourself as a pro is to only show your pro shots. Not the ones that have 2 out of the 4 elements you were going for. Not the ones that have 3 out of the 4 elements. Only pick the ones that are a straight homerun. 4 out of 4 elements, exactly what you were going for and don’t need any explanation. When you are looking at your shots, if there is one bit of hesitation, flag it as rejected. Your intuition is there for a reason. Listen to it, trust it, follow it. If the shot isn’t a “hell yes!” it’s a no. Take a look at these three pictures of these lovely little girls. Which one evokes the most emotion…?

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Flickr noborders2Flickr noborders2Flickr noborders2Flickr noborders2
Flickr noborders2

Yep, this last one above is the one. Happy editing!

You, Your Subject and Window Light – Top 3 FAQ’s

You really can’t get more perfect lighting then from natural window light. The reason being, that the window diffuses the bright light coming through it, especially at the edge of the window. This will leave you with soft, yet clear and illuminated images and none of those squinty-eyed smiles. For as gentle and beautiful as window light is, there are some subtle nuances to be aware of when shooting subject matter utilizing the natural glow. Below are the top 3 most frequently asked questions of window light shots.

Window Light FAQ #1: Where do I position my subject?

If you are shooting a portrait, start by having them sit just past the window, about 6 feet away from the wall. This will allow the light to gently and fully envelop them. Too close and too direct in the sunlight will have you seeing some real funky dark and light contrasting. Also, have your subject sit with the side of their shoulder facing the window. This allows the light to fall flatteringly across their face, leaving soft natural shadows on the far sides.

Window Light FAQ #2: Where do I position myself?

Although it may seem more natural to stand right in front of them while shooting, what actually is more natural is to shoot closer to the angle in which the window light is streaming. This means that you will position yourself with the side of your shoulder right up against the window. Be careful not to stand in the light, but right at the edge of the window. You will end up aiming backwards slightly, due to the way you positioned your subject, but it will create the most striking portraits.

Window Light FAQ #3: What if I’m not shooting a portrait?

As with the picture below, sometimes allowing the light to shine through the subject matter, can create lovely and dramatic photos. Obviously that doesn’t work with humans, and if it does, they may need more calcium… In any case, it all depends on what emotion you are trying to create. Start by placing your subject in the same position mentioned above. Again, that edge light is the softest and most complimentary. Once you have accomplished that, feel free to move around it and see what each angle will produce. As always, make sure you are zoom checking each shot for tack sharpness.

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BONUS Tip! Ok, so we’ve established that natural window light is fantastic, but did you know that you may still want or need a light reflector? Additionally, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t always want to place that reflector on the shadowy side of your subject. If you want to open up those shadows, try placing the reflector above the camera position. Bouncing the light down onto your subject matter from closer to the window will accomplish the same thing but in a less aggressive way. And that’s what we’ve been talking about all along right? Soft, natural lighting? Awesome, get to practicing and pretty soon you’ll be known as the Portrait Specialist in your ‘hood!

Choosing the Right Tripod

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Questions You Need to Ask Before You Buy

Tripods run the gamut as far as features, size and pricing are concerned. Many times, our brains will automatically think, “The more expensive, the better!” but this isn’t always the case. Instead of buying on a whim or falling for slick advertising or sales pitches, take a few moments to honestly assess your needs. Doing so will save you a lot of time, money and frustration down the line.

Here are the top questions you should ask yourself before purchasing your tripod, along with a few suggestions for getting the most out of your purchase:

1) How often will you use a tripod?

If your answer is occasionally – such as for semi-annual family portraits or holidays, then:

  • Select an inexpensive model, either from a discount retailer or local electronics store. There is no reason to break the bank for something you’ll rarely use. Not only that, but an inexpensive tripod will get the job done just as well as a pricier model under these circumstances.
  • As you get the feel of working with a tripod, you may find yourself using it even more than you originally anticipated. If that’s the case, your first tripod will help you determine which features work best for you and help you decide which – if any – other features you would like to experiment with down the line.

If your answer is “all the time” or “for business purposes”, then:

Select a more professional model that will raise your camera to or near your eye level. This will eliminate much of the neck and back strain associated with shooting for longer periods of time.

Once this key question has been answered, it’s time to move on to more detailed questions, such as:

2) What is the tripod’s load capacity and can it meet your needs?

It’s important to ensure that your tripod’s load capacity (the maximum amount of weight it can hold without falling over) will not be exceeded. To test this, load the tripod with your heaviest camera body and lens. If everything remains stable, then you know you have a potential “winner”. If not, keep looking!

3) How much do you want to spend?

All those cool “bells and whistles” will quickly shoot your price up. That’s why it’s important to examine things like size, weight, portability and storage. Ask yourself –

  • Can I carry this tripod easily to and from each location?
  • How much space will it take up?
  • How easily can I fold and store this tripod?
  • *Does it swivel easily or does it jerk sharply or make an odd ratcheting noise? (Important for those who also shoot video in addition to photos.)

Once you’ve considered each these questions carefully, your purchase is sure to be a far more pleasant experience. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, frustration and money – three things we can all smile about.

8 Adorable Newborn Picture Ideas

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From their sweet smelling heads to their ten tiny toes, nothing brings a family closer together than the birth of a new baby.  From the moment they’re born, we’re mesmerized by their ever wiggle, giggle and sigh. We know that babyhood passes all too quickly, so we do everything we can to capture each moment as it comes.

Whether you’re a first-time parent or a burgeoning photographer, don’t panic. You can shoot extraordinary newborn portraits worthy of Anne Geddes herself. All you need is a spark of ingenuity and a charming little subject…

Here are 8 adorable newborn picture ideas to get your creativity flowing:

Newborn Picture Idea #1

Baby’s First Close-Up – Getting directly in your newborn’s face with the camera may prove to be an exercise in fear (theirs) and frustration (yours). Instead, use your zoom to take baby’s first close-up. This will help you do away with unnecessary distractions and focus directly on those big beautiful eyes.

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Flickr: edgarbarany

 

Continue reading “8 Adorable Newborn Picture Ideas”

Children’s Portrait Photography: 10 Tried ‘n True Ideas

Looking to expand your artistic portfolio? Consider these tried ‘n true techniques for creating one-of-a-kind children’s portraits. Just remember – photographing children can be tricky and requires flexibility, a splash of silliness and a pound of patience! If one technique isn’t working for either you or the child, bag it and try another.

Children’s Portrait Photography Idea #1:

Use Their “Natural” Habitat – Photographing  children while they’re happily engaged in their favorite activity – whether that be reading, drawing, building a Lego tower or cooking with every pot in the kitchen – allows the child’s personality to shine forth in all its glory.  For more prop ideas, check out these children’s photography prop ideas.

Flickr: trazomfreak

Continue reading “Children’s Portrait Photography: 10 Tried ‘n True Ideas”

12 Creative Portrait Ideas

Chances are when someone hears the word “portrait” they think of something like this: “Plain, monochromatic background. Focus on the face. Everyone look at the camera now and say, “Cheese!””. (Very yearbook-ish, right?)

While a quality portrait should definitely highlight the subject, it should also capture the essence of the subject’s personality and best features.  Here are 12 creative portrait ideas that will take your headshots from “simple” to “extraordinary”…

Creative Portrait Idea #1:

Square Between the Eyes – By cropping in tight against the face, the subject’s eyes become the focal point and seem to fill the entire frame. A square shape provides a fresh twist on the standard rectangular photo.

Flickr: s-t-r-a-n-g-e

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6 Random (Yet Helpful) Beginning Photography Tips

There are some things that just don’t fit neatly inside a box. (You may even be one of theses things).

Well, there are some tips that just don’t fit neatly inside a post topic, so I created a post topic just for them. I know, special.

Tip #1: Use a Fast Shutter Speed When You Zoom

Example of Focus Point on Side (Tip #3)

This should be easy to remember since “zoom” and “fast” go so well together.

When you zoom in, any little movement on your part will affect the picture more. Think of how stable image is when you just use your eyes compared to when you look through high-powered binoculars. This is the same concept.

To make up for it, use a fast shutter speed (such as 1/250 of a second). If the shutter opens and closes lightening-quick, then you hand won’t have time to shake the image. Continue reading “6 Random (Yet Helpful) Beginning Photography Tips”

10 Must-Know Travel Photography Tips

What do you do when you’re visiting a place that everyone has already photographed? You might as well just buy a post card and save yourself the trouble, right? Wrong!

You want to show people pictures that give your perspective of the trip. You want them to feel like they were there with you. You want them to feel like they have to visit that very place tomorrow.

Most these tips will help you get amazing – and even one-of-a-kind – photographs of the places you travel.  Some will also just aid your sanity! Continue reading “10 Must-Know Travel Photography Tips”

10 Landscape Digital Photography Tips

You’re driving down the road when suddenly a breathtaking scene is upon you. You hurriedly pull over feeling it’s your lucky day since your camera happens to be in the back seat. You excitedly photograph the scene thinking how great it will be to capture this beauty to share with others. Then you push play to look at your image. You feel let down. Why doesn’t the image on your screen compare to real life?

Does this sound familiar? Continue reading “10 Landscape Digital Photography Tips”