Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

 

Next month we will be paying attention to situations and timing for the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks ChallengeJoin us to think more about your photographs. Or, jump in for a re-boot of #BYP52Weeks starting off at the beginning in January!

2014:



  • Black and White Book Club Week 2: Black and White Photography as Normality – still life, landscape, street, portrait, architecture, or journalism / documentary photography



  • Black and White Book Club Week 5: Putting it All Together – a final week to go back to your favorite or most challenging ideas or styles of black and white photography. You can also explore topics not covered in the weeks above, such as Grain or High ISO photographs, HDR, Tone Mapping, and Adding Tints.


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    Saturday, February 21, 2015

    Black and White Book Club, week 4: subject

    Join us all February for the Black and White Book Club. We are sharing and discussing Andrew Gibson's The Magic of Black and White, Vol 1. Consider joining 365Project and sharing a daily picture or jump in with the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge for a once-a-week go at black and white. So far we have focused on seeing in black and white and on details in black and white.


    Interested in learning more about last year's Black and White Book Club? Last year we discussed Michael Freeman's The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography (or the Black and White Photography Field Guide). Check out each week's posts: the overview and week 1week 2week 3week 4, and week 5.

    Black and White Book Club Week 4: subject

    The final pages of the book, 45-58, discuss different common subjects for black and white photography and how to approach each one. For those participating via either 365Project or Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge we specifically narrowed the choice down to macro, but you could really attempt to capture any of these subjects with an eye towards macro or close-up photography. (For more on macro photography, read Getting Started with Macro Photography, Tips to Improve Your Macro Photography, or Top 5 Macro Photography Posts.)

    Whether you want to try macro or just experiment with subjects this week, here are my quick take-aways from each of the individual subject chapters.

    Portraits. In black and white portraiture, the attention is on eyes and texture. You will often see the elderly as the subject of a black and white portrait.

    Landscapes. Black and white landscapes force you to focus on tone, light, and shape. Black and white gives you the freedom to interpret a landscape in a unique or unconventional way to truly make it your image.

    Travel Photography. Black and white lends a timeless feel to travel photography and almost immediately makes you feel nostalgic.

    Flowers. Without the worry of color, flowers are all about shape, tone, and contrast.

    Architecture. Black and white emphasizes form and texture and allows you to create more dramatic compositions against unique skies.

    Try to seek out different subjects this week than you have before. Or, use black and white to explore a familiar subject in a different way. See how you can create something special that represents your statement about the subject.

    We look forward to having you join us this month via either 365Project (daily) or Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge (weekly). Please also consider sharing your thoughts about this week's topic in the comments below.





    Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    New Craftsy Post on Cropping




    You might be interested in another article I wrote last week for Craftsy: How to Crop Photographs for Printing. The article includes a brief overview of aspect ratio and cropping and includes examples of trying to crop the same image for multiple print sizes, including widescreen and wrapped canvas. Read more by clicking How to Crop Photographs for Printing or the pin above.





    Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

    2014:

    • 5-Minute Heart-Shaped Bokeh. You too can create fun heart-shaped bokeh. All you need is 5 minutes, a 50 mm lens, and some paper ... Read the full post for the how to details.

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      Saturday, February 7, 2015

      Black and White Book Club, week 2: Details in B&W

      Join us all February for the Black and White Book Club. We are sharing and discussing Andrew Gibson's The Magic of Black and White, Vol 1. Consider joining 365Project and sharing a daily picture or jump in with the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge for a once-a-week go at black and white. The first week focused on seeing in black and white, and this week we will look at pages 22-31 and focus on details in black and white.


      Interested in learning more about last year's Black and White Book Club? Last year we discussed Michael Freeman's The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography (or the Black and White Photography Field Guide). Check out each week's posts: the overview and week 1week 2week 3week 4, and week 5.

      Black and White Book Club Week 2: details in black and white

      After reading pages 22-31, the idea this week is to focus on the details in black and white photography, and the chapters focus on texture, lines, foreground interest, use of negative space, shapes or patterns, and utilizing contrast.

      By simplifying your photographs down and trying to focus on only one of these challenges at a time, you can learn a lot about what makes an interesting and engaging photograph. Many of these chapter subjects have also been the subject of previous blog posts and BYP52Weeks challenges. If you are curious, you can read more in the following articles:



      "Lines guide the viewer's eye through the photograph from one point to another" (pgs. 23-24) I really liked the point that Andrew Gibson raised in this section - if you are using lines in your photograph, where are they leading? It is not enough to simply use a leading line, you need to have a purpose and a plan for it to lead your eye somewhere interesting and meaningful. Try it!

      Pick one of the specific sections to focus on each day or even try one for the whole week. Think about texture, lines, foreground, negative space, or capturing contrasts. See what the details can do for you.

      We look forward to having you join us this month via either 365Project (daily) or Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge (weekly). Please also consider sharing your thoughts about this week's topic in the comments below.





      Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

      Wednesday, February 4, 2015

      How to Photograph Matches and Fire

      Winter is often the time when photographers begin to seek around indoors for inspiration. Well, seek no farther than a box of matches for a rip-roaring good time. This post will provide the basics for capturing incredible photographs of burning matches. The second post in this series will focus on photographing smoke.

      Equipment for Photographing Matches

      The supplies for photographing matches are fairly straight-forward: matches, a tripod and remote, a black backdrop, and some basic fire safety. For the matches, I recommend purchasing a box of wooden matches, rather than using the slim and flimsy matches that come in a matchbook. Wooden matches are a little more sturdy and will burn longer. Try your local sporting goods or camping store; our local REI had several varieties of inexpensive boxed matches.

      A sturdy tripod and a remote release are not required for photographing lit matches, but they will make your job much easier. The tripod allows you keep your camera stable, so you can set the focus beforehand and so that you can use longer shutter speeds. The remote release allows you to take photographs without shaking your camera and allows you to hold down the shutter to take bursts of multiples photographs in a row. (Details on how to focus with a tripod and about backdrops are below.)

      Finally, you want to make sure you are set up with some basic fire safety precautions. You want something that can hold a lit match safely. For my set up, I used a photography light stand and clipped the match into the holder normally used to attach to a flash unit. You also want something underneath to catch any possible falling ash or debris. I used a metal cooking sheet lined with tin foil for easier clean-up. You might also want to have a glass of water handy for emergencies. Now that you have your supplies, let's get set up and get your settings set!

      Set-Up for Photographing Matches


      The photograph above shows the set-up that I used for all of the match photographs in this article. The black backdrop is hanging from a backdrop stand. I highly recommend investing in a backdrop stand kit if you are planning to do a lot of studio or portrait photography, but if not, you can get the same effect here by just draping a black cloth or blanket over a couch or a few chairs.

      Set-up the light stand (or other match-holding device) at leasat few feet away from the backdrop, and place your cooking sheet underneath to catch anything that might fall. You are going to be composing your shot for shooting just the top of the match, so you can place your cooking sheet fairly close underneath.

      Choose a lens to use that will allow you to keep your camera at least a few feet away from any burning matches. I used my 50 mm lens in this case. Once you have your lens and tripod set up, I recommend setting the focus first. Use the unlit head of the match for your camera to focus on. Then, once it has found that focusing distance, switch your lens to manual focus mode (MF). Now your camera will stay focused throughout.

      Settings for Photographing Lit Matches

      Your settings will vary for photographing lit matches, based on what you are trying to capture. The initial ignition of the match is going to be much brighter than if you are capturing a steadily burning match a few moments later. You can either shoot in Aperture Priority and allow you camera to adjust the exposure while shooting, or you can shoot in Manual mode and adjust it yourself.


      If you shoot in Aperture Priority mode, dial in a mid-range aperture like f/8 to keep your entire flame and match in focus. (Read more about Aperture Priority mode here.) Setting your exposure compensation around -1 to help keep your backdrop black and lend a darker mood to your images. (Read more about exposure compensation here.) Start with your ISO at 100, but if your shutter speeds are too long and your flames are blurring, you can increase the ISO as necessary. (Read more about ISO here.)

      The main downside to shooting this type of shot in Aperture Priority mode is that it will slow down your camera's response time. Since your camera will be calculating the exposure and choosing the shutter speed each shot, it will not take the quickest bursts of shot that it is capable of. For that, you need to use Manual mode. (Read more about Manual mode here.)

      If you really want to capture the most shots in a row in burst mode, you should also consider shooting in only JPEG (not RAW). I like the flexibility for editing in RAW, so I did some shots just JPEG for speed and others in RAW for flexibility and post-processing.


      My recommendation would be to try shooting a match or two in Aperture Priority mode first. Then, look back at your settings and see which looked the best for the effect that you want. Dial those settings in for Manual mode and start from there. For me, I started with ISO 200, f/7.1, and 1/15th. Some of the initial ignition shots were still too bright and the flame too blurred, so I speed up the shutter speed to 1/60th. Your best settings will vary, depending on how much ambient light there is as well.

      One last tip - keep a lit candle burning nearby. I found that it was much easier to use a steady-burning candle to ignite a single match and then use that match to ignite the stationary match for the photographs. It was much easier for me to light the match from a candle with one hand and keep my remote ready in the other.

      Have Fun and Get Creative!

      Now that you have the basics down, get ready to have some fun! Remember to use proper ventilation or turn a fan on after your are done shooting so that you do not make the room too smoky. Once you have gotten good results from one match, try more or try different settings for different effects.


      Just like with clouds, you might suddenly start seeing shapes as you stare into the flames. As soon as I saw the flame shape in the original shot above, I knew it would make an amazing butterfly. I simply duplicated the image, flipped it, and rotated it slightly for the final version on the right.


      Or, you can set up your own shapes beforehand and set them alight! (Be sure to keep the water handy for this style. I immediately extinguished the heart a few seconds after the final shot above, and it had already burned through the tin foil and scorched the cooking sheet underneath.) You also definitely want to shoot in burst mode to get the maximum number of different exposures.

      Have fun, be safe, and share your results below!





      Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

      Saturday, January 31, 2015

      Another February, Another Black and White Book Club!

      Last year, a group of photographers on 365Project and Flickr came together and participated in a Black and White Book Club for the month of February. This year we are back with a new book and new weekly themes! Consider joining 365Project and sharing a daily picture or jump in with the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge for a once-a-week go at black and white.


      Interested in learning more about last year's Black and White Book Club? Last year we discussed Michael Freeman's The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography (or the Black and White Photography Field Guide). Check out each week's posts: the overview and week 1week 2week 3week 4, and week 5.

      Black and White Book Club 2015: Overview

      This year, we are sharing and discussing Andrew Gibson's The Magic of Black and White, Vol 1. This packed PDF contains 60 pages of amazing black and white photography and advice for only $5. We will be breaking it down by week into the following pages and areas of emphasis:


      • Feb. 1-7, pages 1-21: Develop your ability to see in black and white, with a focus on simple shapes and forms. 
      • Feb. 8-14, pages 22-31: Develop your ability to see the details in your pictures. Choose one of the following to feature in your pictures: texture, lines, foreground, negative space, or contrast 
      • Feb. 15-21, pages 32-44: Develop your perception of light. Choose a single subject and put it in different lighting situations: soft light, hard light, dramatic light, back light, sunrise/sunset, natural light or interior light. 
      • Feb. 22-28, pages 45-58: Macro (with a twist if you are following the book). Develop your ability to see the minute details of your subject. 

      Black and White Book Club Week 1: seeing in black and white

      Black and white photography is a different beast than color photography, and it requires a different skill set and a different way of approaching your final image. As a rule, people do not literally "see" in black and white, so the camera (or our post-processing) will interpret a scene differently in monochrome than we experienced it firsthand. As Gibson says on page 3, "By taking away colour, the image becomes an artistic interpretation."

      Do you practice pre-visualization when photographing in black and white? Do you stop and think about what your composition will look like when you no longer see the color? Spend that extra few seconds this week trying to pre-visualize your image, then shoot and use your LCD to preview your black and white creation. (I still recommend shooting in RAW + JPEG so that you retain the color in the RAW file if you want it back later.)

      Gibson emphasizes several different strategies for thinking about black and white, including paying attention to tonal contrast, studying the highlights, aiming for simplicity, and struggling with complexity. He then wraps up this week's section with a brief discussion of shape and form. (Read more about these two elements of visual design: shape and form.)

      My suggestion to you this week would be to try and tackle some of these recommendations individually. Spend a day thinking about and trying to photograph examples of tonal contrast. Then a day seeking out simplicity and eliminating distraction elements. Throughout, keep coming back to that idea of pre-visualization. Work on trying to align your expectations to the real output of your black and white photographs.

      We look forward to having you join us this month via either 365Project (daily) or Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge (weekly). Please also consider sharing your thoughts about this week's topic in the comments below.





      Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.