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!

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”…?

Flickr dojoklo
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…?

Flickr noborders2
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!

Incredible Hand-Held Shots Without the Camera Shake

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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.

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Flickr library_of_congress

 

 

12 Elements of Composition in Photography, Part 2

Photography Composition - Element of Color

Here’s Part 2 of 2 of our Photography Composition post. If you missed Part 1, check out 12 Elements of Composition in Photography, Part 1.

With so many images all around, what will make someone stop and look at yours? Grasping elements of composition that naturally draw eyes to an image or part of an image will help take your photography to a new level.

Color

I was reading about King Henry VIII the other day. Apparently he and Anne Boleyn wore yellow after the death of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon – the queen beloved by the people. When you read that, how do feel they were reacting to her death? My first thought is they were jerks to wear such a joyful color (they claim they wore yellow because that represents mourning in Spain, where Katherine was from).  The point is, color can represent and even trigger emotions and moods. It’s hard to imagine a picture of someone wearing yellow as depressing.

Photography Composition - Element of Color Continue reading “12 Elements of Composition in Photography, Part 2”

12 Elements of Composition in Photography, Part 1

Composition photography - Element of Repetition

With so many images all around, what will make someone stop and look at yours?

Grasping elements of composition that naturally draw eyes to an image or part of an image will help take your photography to a new level.

Rule of Thirds

Just put your subject in the middle of the viewfinder and click – right? Wrong.

For a more professional and balanced image, imagine dividing the scene into thirds both horizontally and vertically.

Composition photography - Rule of Thirds
[Photo Credit: Rachael Olson] Continue reading “12 Elements of Composition in Photography, Part 1”

Telling a Story with Your Photos

Even an elementary school student should be able to tell you that a story has a setting, characters, and a plot. Photography gives you the opportunity to tell a story in a unique, powerful way – without the written or spoken word. A picture IS worth a thousand words. Although the medium of storytelling isn’t the same as what you learned in elementary school, the elements of the story are still important. And remember a story can be told with one or several pictures. Continue reading “Telling a Story with Your Photos”