The Perfect Panorama

So we know that the iPhone can take panoramic shots now. Yep, it’s super easy, you just make that tiny little arrow (oops! you are moving too high!) stay as close to the horizontal line (shoot, now it’s too low…) as you possibly can. That might be all well and good for family reunions or a killer crowd shot at the Rolling Stones concert, but is that really what you are going for? If you have subscribed to this blog (which you most likely have if you are reading this) then you are seeking a better level of panorama. Let us share with you what we know.

Perfect Panorama Rule #1:

First and foremost, and we’ve said it in earlier blogs…tripod, tripod, tripod! Stability in every way is an absolute must when it comes to creating seamless panoramas so start with that great 3-legged foundation.

Perfect Panorama Rule #2:

Shoot vertically, in portrait style. You will have to take a few more shots to cover the entire landscape, but it will create the most seamless and stunning panorama.

Perfect Panorama Rule #3:

This one is SUPER important; change your white balance to cloudy. If you leave it on auto, the balance will change between each picture and then you’ll be looking at a patchwork panorama. Nobody wants that.

Perfect Panorama Rule #4:

For the same reasons as above, set your exposure. See what it is through the viewfinder, switch to manual and then keep it at that same exposure. We don’t want any auto exposure going on and thus changing the image from frame to frame.

Flickr djshanu
Flickr djshanu

Perfect Panorama Rule #5:

Third times a charm. You guessed it, follow the same process for your focus. Once you’ve set your focus, turn off the auto feature so the focus remains the same for each frame.

Perfect Panorama Rule #6:

When capturing each segment, make sure to include at least 15% of the previous frame in the new frame. Having overlap will be important when it comes time to put everything together.

Perfect Panorama Rule #7:

Use a shutter release or a self-timer. We always want our photos to be tack sharp but in this particular instance, having zero camera shake is even more dire because it will be far more noticeable when the frame right next to it is clean and crisp.

Perfect Panorama Rule #8:

Last but definitely not least, HUSTLE!! Move quickly through capturing each frame so clouds or lighting or a new object coming into frame will not create inconsistencies in your image.

That’s it. Super easy and super worth remembering. Your next panorama will be so spectacular, it will make your viewer feel as if he or she were there. Take that iPhone 5!

The Biggest Wedding Shot Challenges and How to Own Them

It doesn’t matter if you are a friend of the bride or groom and you’ve given them a sweet deal on the cost of their wedding photos. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out as an amateur photographer and you are doing this wedding for free to improve your book. It doesn’t even matter if the bride and groom have said to you, “Don’t worry, just get shots really candidly and casually. We want things to seem natural” While these or any number of scenarios may be what brought you to the point of calling yourself a wedding photographer for a day, none of them trump the one simple and unbelievably daunting truth of weddings: this is the big day, and you only get one shot…literally.

Since there is no “do-over” when it comes to the wedding day, there are 4 basic principles to keep in mind when you’ve taken on the incredible task of shooting wedding photos. Remember to accomplish each one of these and you will never find yourself scrambling for extra batteries as the bride turns red with frustration because you are losing the perfect lighting.

Wedding Shot Principle #1: Scope out the location EARLY. Wedding days are inherently busy and jam packed to the minute. The last thing you want to do as a photographer is have the wedding party scampering all about the venue searching for the best lighting and angles. Arrive at the ceremony location earlier in the day or even a day before if possible so you can survey the scene. Decide which areas will provide the components necessary for the styling your bride and groom have chosen.

Wedding Shot Principle #2: Bring backups of EVERYTHING. How does the saying go? ‘Better safe than sorry’ Again, there is no re-doing a wedding day. So whether you have to buy stock in AAA batteries or carry two extra flashes around with you that day, the bottom line is this: just do it! You will find yourself so much more at ease knowing you are completely prepared for anything. Additionally, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your flash battery and camera battery will run out with all the burst mode snapping you’ll be doing.

Flickr
Flickr petesmart

Wedding Shot Principle #3: Have a shot list. When it comes to formal wedding pictures, the bride and groom will know best what arrangements they will want so most likely the happy couple will provide you with this.  However, if this is not the case, ask for one and make sure, even after the formal pictures are done, that you keep the list with you so you can be sure to get a couple candid’s of each person on the list. Everyone loves action shots of laughing, smiling and dancing!

Flickr acclaimed-wedding-photographer
Flickr acclaimed-wedding-photographer

 

Wedding Shot Principle #4: Bring a step-ladder. These days, couple’s are getting a little tricky with where and how they are getting married. While some remain in a church, many are getting married outside, on a mountain, under water…? With these added components of location having a step ladder handy can help you access angles and shots that otherwise would be lost. After all what is the surest way to get more business? Get the un-gettable shot and hear the happy bride sing your praises forever!

Home Studios, They’re Easier Than You Think…and cheaper too!

What comes to mind when you think about professional studios? Indoor photo shoots? I’m guessing you are imagining some flashy car or a gorgeous model, set in front of a flawless white background, multiple bright spotlights shining directly onto the perfectness of the subject matter. Sounds pretty high fashion (a.k.a. high dollar) and intense huh? The reality is that it doesn’t have to be so intense and it doesn’t have to be so costly. These days, studio gear has come down in price and advances in technology have made this gear far more user friendly. Thus, more of our fellow photographers are able to set up shop in their own homes at a fraction of the cost. We’re talking only about $1,000.00 to get you up and running. Just don’t meet clients still in your pajamas…I know it’s a home studio, but that may detract from the professional image…just sayin’.

Below are the 5 must-haves for a successful home studio:

Home Studio Must-Have #1: Background – We can’t all have a world class cyclorama as a part of our studios, at least not yet.  A fantastic alternative is to use seamless background paper. It’s inexpensive and the two most popular sizes (53 inches and 107 inches) can be purchased for anywhere between $20-$40. The stands that support these paper rolls only go for about $60 themselves so for a mere $100, you have your versatile studio background.

Home Studio Must-Have #2: Strobes – Ok so first things first, we aren’t talking about disco status strobe lights. Strobes are just pro speak for studio flash, aka lighting. They are basically the same thing as your off camera flash however they are far more powerful and put out more light which is necessary for killer studio shots. And p.s. they can be acquired for as little as $300. Say what!?

Home Studio Must-Have #3: Softbox – In last week’s post we talked about window lighting and how this diffused light creates some of the best elements for photography. Same thing applies to studio shots. However, studios are usually very dark with the exception of the strobes so how do we create that same diffused lighting? You guessed it, a softbox. For only about $200, they fit right over your strobes and are the pro choice for making the harsh light of your strobe, bigger and softer.

Flickr j_kacey
Flickr j_kacey

Home Studio Must-Have #3a: Speed Ring – Some softboxes will come with a speed ring built right in. However many do not, so if this is the case for you, make sure you put it on your shopping list. Be super on top of your game though and make sure to purchase one that is made to fit your brand of strobe. Speed rings are small metal circles, with four holes on the sides designed to hold the four thin poles that give your softbox its shape. Depending on the quality, they can cost anywhere from$50 to $120.

Home Studio Must-Have #4: Light Meter – These little babies are so helpful when you are working with multiple lights and possibly multiple reflectors and need to choose the perfect exposure. They are super easy to use and will save you hours of stressful Photoshop adjustments. Besides, your time is far more valuable than the $250 it costs to purchase these tools of exposure perfection.

Home Studio Must-Have #5: Silver Reflector – Are you thinking you need to spend another $300, for a second strobe in order to handle those pesky shadows? Not necessarily.  Be nice to yourself (and your wallet) and just pick up a $40 silver reflector. It will throw a ton of gentle light back toward your subject matter and quickly illuminate any undesired shadows.

Flickr afshinheidary
Flickr afshinheidary

Ok, drum roll please as we do our Financial Re-Cap:

  • Background – $100.00
  • Strobe – $300.00
  • Softbox – $200.00
  • Speed ring – $120.00
  • Light Meter – $250.00
  • Silver Reflector – $40.00

 

Home Studio Grand Total:  $1010.00

After You’ve Captured the Moment: The Magic of Photo Processing

magic-of-photo-processing-adobe_photoshop-haaghunflickr

Ok, so you’ve done all you can do on the front end. You were incredibly creative and used an old fence post as a tripod when capturing the wild horses grazing. You’ve mastered the death grip and were able to get crystal clear shots of toddlers bounding through sprinklers. What’s more, you know all this because the zoom check is now standard practice for you. Yep, you’re kind of a big deal. It’s time to make some prints and time to make some money. But how, you ask, does one accomplish that so as to ensure what you see on your computer screen conveys to the size print you want?

The tri-fecta of P’s: Photoshop, Paper, Printer. It’s simple but foundational…just like your tripod.

Photo Processing Component #1: Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop, originally developed by Thomas Knoll, could probably also have been titled “The Magic Photo Processor”. Photoshop is the darkroom software that all serious photographers use to fine tune their images. You can clone images. You can combine and crop photos. Color management, motion blur, red eye removal, tonal adjustments, sharpening and so much more.  If you are not at the Adobe Photoshop stage yet, Photoshop Elements is also a great option. It is basically the semi-pro version of Photoshop. There are not as many features and tools, but it all depends on the type of financial and emotional commitment you are making to your art. He has also created Adobe Camera RAW for those of you who are interested in shooting your photos in the image quality mode RAW – but that is a whole different blog post.

Photo Processing Component #2Paper. Although there are a ridiculous number of paper styles and a ridiculous number of paper companies out there, let’s just cut right to the chase. A first choice among many of the pros is Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster. Obviously you will find what is right for you and probably the most important question to ask yourself when choosing paper is ‘what is my subject matter’? For the natural graces; water, landscapes, birds, flowers etc., you’ll probably want a more textured paper. This will help create that tactile sensation that matches the artsy, painted feel of your image. When printing more serious photos such as cityscapes, architecture, portraits, travel etc., opt for the above Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster. This will really allow the lines and intricate details of your work to command the attention they deserve.

magic-of-photo-processing-epson_paper_surfaces-samfeinstein
Flickr samfeinstein

Printer. So maybe the printer section should have come before the paper section. But really it’s the chicken or the egg situation. If you are going to get a specific printer, you should then plan on using that company’s specific paper. However, how do you know what paper will do your images justice until you’ve done a couple test prints on that printer you are trying to choose…? Confusing right? Well let’s simplify. Epson printers have really been climbing the ladder in terms of exceptional quality. Just like the Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster, this brand of printers has become the standard for the serious professional photog. It is so, due to the printer’s ability to create truly vivid color output and incredible dynamic black and whites. Enough said.

magic-of-photo-processing-epson-printer-frog-22050666@N08

8 Tips for Super Sharp Photos

Let’s be honest here, if you wanna be a pro but your images aren’t sharp, you aren’t going to get very far. Sharp shots allow your viewer to feel present for the event; and that is the goal we should all be striving for. When someone is present for an event they are emotionally attached and when they are emotionally attached to your product, they are going to be loyal, talk it up and provide the best word of mouth marketing. Ever.

Before we get into the on-site techniques, know that sharpening your images after the fact with Adobe Photoshop is also an option, but it is far easier to get as close to “tack sharp” as possible in the initial stages. Below are 8 specific ways that, when used either alone or in combination, will give you that amazing, tack sharp photo…

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #1: Tripods, tripods, tripods! The only job of this piece of equipment is to keep your camera steady. It is the foundational tool that all the pros use even if it doesn’t seem necessary.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #2: Ballheads. You may think that when you are purchasing a quality tripod, it would come with a ballhead attached. Fortunately for you (maybe unfortunately for your wallet), no. Cheapo tripods that come with an affixed head are actually more limiting. Trust me, it’s worth it to spend a bit extra and get a quality tripod and a quality ballhead that will allow you to easily adjust and move your camera for the perfect angle and assured steadiness.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #3: Cable Release. Even the steadiest of hands can create slight movement simply from pressing the shutter release. In this instance, a cable release is the answer to your prayers. This allows you to take the picture without actually touching the shutter release and therefore, no camera shake. Yay!

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #4:  Self Timer. If you are not able to get a cable release yet, go for the self timer option on your camera. The time it takes for the timer to wind down will allow for any movement you created when pushing the shutter release, to subside.

8-tips-super-sharp-photos-camera_with_accessories-richard314159

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #5: VR or IS. Depending on your camera, your lens will either have a Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilization feature. These can be fantastic when taking hand held shots but when using your tripod, it’s better to turn the feature off. The reason being, these are designed to stop movement, but if the camera does not find any, it goes out looking for it which, unfortunately, creates movement.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #6: Sharpest Aperture. Every camera has a sweet spot. Generally speaking, and when you are able to, shoot your images at two full stops smaller than wide open. If that does not seem to be producing the desired sharpness, take inventory of the photo data of each shot. You can find this information in Adobe Photoshop under File Info -> Camera Data. Whatever aperture setting is behind your sharpest photos is the sweet spot for your equipment.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #7: Good Lenses. Much like our own vision, a good lens is going to convey the most beautiful images. Straight up, anything less than $295 just isn’t going to move you from amateur to pro. You have the talent, invest in the equipment that matches, you’ll be happy you did.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #8: Zoom Check. Who hasn’t opened up a picture on your computer or tried to enlarge something only to see those dreaded pixels from the days of Super Mario Brothers? Everything looks good on the small screen of your camera so be super certain you are on the path to tack sharpness. Immediately after taking the shot, zoom all the way in and see if your lines are clean and clear. If not you’ll know you need to make some adjustments.

Happy shooting!

8-tips-super-sharp-photos-buds_close_up-ricarda303

Incredible Hand-Held Shots Without the Camera Shake

incredible-hand-held-shots-natural_tripod-djmatsuda
Flickr djmatsuda

A tripod can be a photographer’s best friend when it comes to tack sharp, steady shots. However, what if that funky, artistic, avant guard image you are about to capture does not allow for the wide stance of a tripod? How can you assure your client or yourself (possibly the most demanding client of all) that you will still be able to provide the needed clarity? Below are 4 quick tricks to keep in mind so steady hand-held camera shots can become your “in a pinch” specialty.

Incredible Hand-Held Shot Tip #1

Natural Tripod Formations – First, use that creative eye of yours and look for fences, railings, boulders or any other stationary object. All you need is a place to rest your lens and it will take the focus off your arm shake and put it back where it should be, on the moment.

Incredible Hand-Held Shot Tip #2

Lean on Me – If Mother Earth did not provide any tripod-esque opportunities, use yourself as the brace. Lean against a wall, lean against a building or whatever you can find because the steadier you are, the steadier your shot will be.

Incredible Hand-Held Shot Tip #3

Less Than the Best – Believe it or not, perfect lighting will not always exist for your shoots. I know, terrible but true. However, next time you find yourself in such a predicament, and don’t want to deal with camera shake as the lens focuses, switch your camera to continuous shooting or “burst” mode. Hold down the shutter release and take a stream of photos. Chances are at least one of those multiple photos will be as sharp as you need it to be.

Incredible Hand-Held Shot Tip #4

The Death Grip – This term was coined by photographer Joel Lipovetsky and when used, can provide extra stability and ultimately sharper hand-held shots. Start by putting your arm through your camera strap so the padded part is sitting just above your elbow on the underside of your arm. Then wrap both sides of the strap around the outside of your wrist leaving just enough room to hold your camera snugly in your hand. Use your other hand for additional balancing.

Adding any one or a combination of these tricks to your photography resume will increase your versatility and ultimately, your marketability.

incredible-hand-held-shots-sitting_steady_shooting-library_of_congress
Flickr library_of_congress

 

 

Lightning and Fog – Two Elusive Muses, Captured

Elusive-Muses-Captured-Lightning_hunty66

When it comes to artistic muses, lightning – with its white hot bursts of power and fog, with its soft, almost ethereal quality, are often found at the top of most photographers’ lists. While capturing these two natural phenomenons can be tricky, they’re not impossible. Here are simple steps and techniques you can use to capture both, faster than Mother Nature can say, “Cheese!”

Lightening – Dramatic, Powerful and Just a Wee Bit Dangerous

A gorgeously captured shot of lightning as it streaks across the sky is downright dramatic. And as we all know, the power behind lightning is a force to be reckoned with, and therefore it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway), that standing outside in the midst of a lightning storm can be dangerous. So, before we tell you how to capture the lightning, here are some safety tips to help prevent the lightning from capturing YOU instead:

  • Photograph at a safe distance from the action
  • Do not stand directly in the rain, under a tree, etc.

Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to the how-to portion. First things first: you’ll need a tripod and a shutter release cable or wireless shutter release. Both are absolutely necessary as they will prevent any and all vibrations from thunder, wind, rain or your shaky hands from blurring the “money” shot.

Next, switch your camera mode to “Bulb” or the “B” setting. This allows your camera’s shutter to remain open for as long as you hold down the shutter button. You’ll also want to use f/8 as a good starting point. (This can be adjusted later, if need be.) Once you’re settings are dialed in, compose your shot by aiming your camera toward the area where the lightning has been most active.

When the see the first lightning strike, press and hold your shutter release cable button down. Then, when you see the second lightning strike, pause for a half-second, then release the shutter….voila! That should do it! Granted, it may take you a few times more to get your timing down exactly right, so don’t get frustrated. Just keep trying and you’ll get it eventually. (The shot that is. Not the actual bolt of lightning itself. Ahem.)

Elusive-Muses-Captured-Fog_acidzebra
Flickr: acidzebra

Fog – Misty, Intriguing and Despised by Light Meters Everywhere

A gentle rolling fog can add an element of mystery, enchantment and perhaps even a touch of “spooky” to your shots – if you can capture it! So what’s a frustrated photographer to do?

Begin by aiming directly at the fog itself while holding the shutter button halfway down. Next, you’ll need to adjust your camera’s Compensation Control (you can find this just behind the shutter button) and increase the exposure by one stop. (You’ll do this by holding down the Compensation Control button while simultaneously turning the Command Dial – the black dial on the back of your camera) until you see the “+1” in your viewfinder.) By doing this, you’re basically telling your camera, “You’re wrong, fog is good and we’re gonna do things my way!” When you’re finished capturing the “misty mornin’ fog”, don’t forget to return your exposure compensation setting back to zero; otherwise the rest of your shots will be overexposed by one stop all day long. (And trust me – that’s pretty frustrating, too.)

And there you have it, folks. Two of nature’s most elusive muses, captured right before your very eyes. Experiment with these two techniques and watch how fast you ramp up the cool factor during your next outdoor shoot!

Making Money From Your Photography

How Much Is Your Photography Worth?

Once you’ve made the decision to go from amateur to professional, the first question you must answer is, “How much are my images worth?” Because each photograph and situation is unique, the idea of setting a fixed price would be downright dangerous from a business perspective. In order to attract and retain clients as well as give your abilities and skill the credit they’re due, it’s important to remember the following points: Continue reading “Making Money From Your Photography”

Creative Ideas for Must-Have Wedding Reception Photography

must have wedding shots-signing the marriage licenses_venson

As we mentioned in our previous article, it’s important to create a Wedding Photography Shot List before even attempting to photograph the big event.

If you want to avoid having your shots look “ho hum” (and thus avoid upsetting the bride and groom!), we’ve put together a fun montage of wedding reception photo ideas to spur you on to creative victory. Feel free to add your own spin on these ideas and enlist creative input from the bride and groom as well.

Signing the Marriage License– Experiment with your distance to capture this moment from every possible angle. If you have a second shooter, take turns photographing from different sides of the bride, groom and officiate.

Continue reading “Creative Ideas for Must-Have Wedding Reception Photography”

14 Charming Toddler Portrait Ideas

toddler portrait ideas ducklings-fabulousphotosbybrittany

Oh, the toddler years! It’s a time filled with endless discovery, curious exploration and growing independence. A toddler’s energy is a force to be reckoned with, matched only by their powerful self-will. Since capturing these pint-sized whirlwinds on camera can be (more than a bit) tricky, we’ve compiled 14 easy to re-create toddler portrait ideas that are sure to bring a smile to both the child’s and their parents’ faces!

Toddler Portrait Idea #1-3 – Close Up

Mommies, daddies and grandparents agree – there’s nothing better than a “close up” of their favorite little sweetheart! It doesn’t matter if the child is smiling or snoozing away, a close up is always a sure-fire hit.

toddler portrait ideas close up-jrishel
Flickr: jrishel
toddler portrait ideas close up bw-vivarin
Flickr: vivarin
toddler portrait ideas shh sleeping-oaspetele_de_piatra
Flickr: oaspetele_de_piatra

Toddler Portrait Idea #4-5 – Exploring the Great Outdoors

Little ones just love playing outside! Whether it’s a blooming meadow, a babbling brook or a park filled with playground equipment, each setting lends itself to the mood of adventure and discovery.

toddler portrait ideas country bridge-joelleim
Flickr: joelleim
toddler portrait ideas picking flowers-trebecca84
Flickr: trebecca84

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #6 – Peekaboo!

It’s the first game a child learns to play which also doubles as a great ice breaker for nervous children and their eager photographers. Playing peekaboo with your hands or with a prop is guaranteed to bring out the giggles in everyone – fast!

toddler portrait ideas playground-brandobean
Flickr: brandobean

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #7 – Off to the Side

There’s no rule that says a head shot must be taken…well…head-on. In fact, jazzing it up a bit by having part of the child’s face just out of view creates a winning artistic touch. Be sure to keep a framed sample copy nearby to showcase this idea to its fullest potential.

toddler portrait ideas peekaboo-beattys
Flickr: beattys

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #8-9 – Walking Hand in Hand

Those wobbly first steps are precious indeed! Experiment with this portrait idea by having the child walk holding their parents’ hands or fingers, or walking along with an older sibling to add perspective and a wisp of nostalgia.

toddler portrait ideas walking with parents-anvuela
Flickr: anvuela
toddler portrait ideas ducklings-fabulousphotosbybrittany
Flickr: fabulousphotosbybrittany

Toddler Portrait Idea #10-11 – Just Mommy (or Daddy) and Me

It’s time for your subjects to pucker up and snuggle in close with this classic parent & child pose. Frame the photo within a variety of settings such as a nearby park or a big cozy chair to kindle that familial bond. Include grandparents or a favorite aunt or uncle to create a beautiful family treasure in minutes!

toddler portrait ideas father and son-joelleim
Flickr: joelleim
toddler portrait ideas mommys kisses-lab2112
Flickr: lab2112

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #12 – One Small Step

When you’re less than 3 feet high, climbing the stairs is a monumental feat! Capture this proud-as-can-be moment with a photo of the wee one ascending that magical staircase of victory. Jazz up the scene a little bit with a sparkly crown, fairy wings or even a little super hero cape for added effect. (Be sure to have an adult or parent nearby for safety!)

toddler portrait ideas one big step-svenstorm
Flickr: svenstorm

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #13 – So Curious!

Toddlerhood is a time for asking all sorts of questions from morning ‘til night. A sweet portrait depicting a little one’s ponderous expression captures both the innocence and wonder of this all too fleeting time in their lives.

toddler portrait ideas curious-37115419@N02
Flickr: 37115419@N02

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #14 – Angelic Profile

A little one’s profile is truly a thing of beauty – just as their mama! The contours of their faces are soft and rounded, from their sloping foreheads to their tiny button noses. Be sure to allow for plenty of light across the eyes to create a slightly ethereal look.

toddler portrait ideas angel eyes-foxtongue
Flickr: foxtongue