Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to Photograph Architecture

Architecture is the topic of the week of Sept. 14th for the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge. No matter where you live, you can find interesting architecture to explore in your photographs. This post will provide links to a few great articles on architecture photography to get you started.

How to Photograph Architecture | Boost Your Photography

Architecture and Composition

Architecture photography is all about composition. There is so much to think about in terms of lines, placement, and lighting. One of the biggest things to keep in mind when photographing architecture is that the type of lens you use - and how close or far you are from your subject - makes a big difference in how your subject will appear in the final image.

The image above is from an earlier post on architecture, Photographing Architecture: watch your lines. I shot this series of photographs of our state capitol building by continually backing up until the amount of the building in the frame was approximately the same for each focal length. (The 18 mm shot was taken from the bottom of the set of stairs, while the 46 mm shot was taken from about two city blocks away.) Wide angle lens and shooting close-in to a building will tend to exaggerate the vertical and horizontal distortion and create converging verticals. Stepping back and using a zoom lens creates more 'natural' looking straight verticals and horizontals, but you may not always have a wide and unimpeded view of your subject to make that type of shot possible. (A specific type of lens, known as a tilt-shift lens, allows you to correct for this type of distortion in camera, but such lenses are a significant investment.)

Correcting for Converging Verticals will significantly shrink your usable image | Boost Your Photography

You can also correct for this type of distortion in post-processing, as in the image series above. The top image is the original photograph. The middle image is after a correction for the vertical and horizontal distortion. Notice that some of the image is now gray space that must be cropped. I chose the cinematic crop ratio, shown in the bottom image, to feature the width of the scene. I would have liked to include the entirety of the Sears Tower, but correcting for distortion resulted in the loss of some of the building. Think about shooting wider than you need if you are planning to apply post-processing corrections.

General Tips for Architecture

The article pinned above, 9 Architectural Photography Tips by Natalie Denton appears on Digital Photography School. This post lays out some of the big ideas regarding architectural photography and how best to approach an architectural subject.

A second article by Natalie, Photographing Architecture expands on the original list with a series of suggestions for what to pay attention to when shooting architecture. This is a great place to start to get some ideas for composition, timing, and subjects.

Interior Architecture

Architecture photography does not mean that you can only take your photographs outdoors! Do not forget the variety of subjects provided by indoor architecture photography. Interior photography may be a specialized branch of architecture but one that also holds endless interest and opportunities.

The article pinned above, 6 Tips to Take Your Architecture Photography to the Next Level by Suzi Pratt, focuses on suggestions for interior photography, especially for magazines or lifestyle publications. Think about how interesting it could be to apply these tips to your own interior!

My final tip for photographing interiors, especially your own, comes hard-won from needing to sublet my apartment a few years back. While Suzi mentions 'styling' an interior, you might be amazed at what a difference a few minutes of decluttering can make in your final image. Do not be intimidated - you only need to declutter what the camera can see. Hide a few things behind the couch, and your whole space might suddenly look bigger and brighter!

Summary: Architectural Photography

Architecture provides a variety of opportunities to for photography, considering both exteriors and interiors. Pay attention to lines and lighting, and you will be well on your way to creating interesting and memorable shots.

Share a link or a photograph with us in the comments below! Or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.

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, September 10, 2014

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

  • Aperture and the F/Stop Conundrum. The first in a series of introductory posts about aperture. Aperture and the F/Stop Conundrum provides an informative overview of aperture, how to use it, and what the deal is with "f/stops." 
  • Zooming vs. Cropping: Perspective in Photography. Zooming with your lens is not the same as cropping a photograph. This post discusses the important role of perspective in photography and lays out exactly how "zooming with your feet" differs from simply cropping an image. (This post was written in honor of my beloved 15-year-old Mazda who was retired shortly after this photoshoot.)
  • Panning in Photography. Panning is a fun photographic technique for rendering a moving subject. The trick to panning is moving your camera at the same relative speed as your subject. Read the full article for all the details.
  • Window on the World. Windows are a fascinating photography subject, but one that need careful consideration when shooting. This post provides tips for shooting through windows, as well as a series of examples that will make you start thinking more about windows, especially when you are traveling.

Don't Miss a Single Post from Boost Your Photography

Follow along on Facebook

Follow along on Google+

Follow along on Twitter

Follow along on Pinterest

Follow along on Bloglovin'

Or, better yet, receive updates daily or weekly via email. Sign up below!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

How would you like to receive updates? *

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting Started with Macro Photography

Macro photography is an endlessly interesting field of photography. You'd be amazed how much time you can spend photographing your kitchen utensils! While aspiring macro photographers could easily plunk down hundreds of dollars on fancy macro lenses, electrical extension tubes, or focusing bellows, there is a lot of macro photography that can be explored already with the camera you have now. This post will provide an overview of some of our most popular posts on macro photography. (Macro photography is also the topic this week for the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community. Consider joining in.)

How To Details in Make the Shot: Droplet Refraction and Fun with Fizzy Fruit Photography

Macro Photography - How To

Most cameras, including point-and-shoots, have a macro mode or setting. It is usually indicated by a tulip symbol. Macro mode may allow your camera to focus better on a very nearby subject. (This is known as the minimum focusing distance. There is a limit to how close to itself a camera can focus. Read more in the article Why Won't My Lens Focus?) There are pieces of inexpensive equipment you can buy that can change your minimum focusing distance, but equipment will be addressed in the next section.

If you want to take a photograph of something small and get as much detail as possible, then you will want to shoot that object at your lens's minimum focusing distance. Macro photography often works better if you can use manual focusing rather than relying on auto-focus. My guest post Inexpensive Macro Photography: Tips and Tricks on the web site Photokonnexion walks you through the basics of focusing in macro photography. There is an even an action shot of me demonstrating how to "focus with your body."

Once you have the basics of focusing down, the next article to read is Tips to Improve Your Macro Photography. This post starts from the bottom up, including a discussion of the mathematical definition of macro photography (and "lifesize"). There are also several tips about how best to use depth of field, a narrow aperture, and your tripod to achieve the shot you want. Finally, the article concludes with composition advice specific to macro photography.

Another useful post to read is Macro Fakery: Background Creation. This post gives you the inside information about how to 'create' the macro photograph that you want and why you need to pay attention to your backgrounds, both natural and artificial.

The final how to post explains a macro photography post-processing technique known as Focus Stacking. With focus stacking, you take a series of photographs, moving the focus point and area of the photograph in focus just slightly between each shot. You can then use an easy workflow in Adobe Photoshop to combine those images into one, hyper-focused final photograph. The article, Focus Stacking for Macro and Close-Up Photography, will walk you through each step of the process.

Macro Photography - The Equipment

Yes, owning a $500 macro lens would be one way to accomplish macro photographs, but it is not a requirement. If you own a phone or point-and-shoot camera, you can use macro mode and a tripod or steady hand to capture great macro or close-up shots. If you own a DSLR or other interchangeable lens camera, then there are some very inexpensive pieces of equipment (like $10 USD) that can have a big impact on your macro photographs.

Close-up lenses are filters that screw on to the front of your camera lens. They act like a magnifying glass and change the minimum focusing distance of your lens, allowing you to focus on a subject that is even closer to the camera than you could before. The closer you can get your subject, the larger it will appear in the final photograph. There are many brands and types of close-up lenses available, and you can read my glowing review of the Digital Concepts 4-Piece Close-Up Lenses set here.

The other inexpensive pieces of equipment for macro photography (plus close-up lenses) are explained and evaluated in the post Cheap and Easy Macro: comparison and recommendations. You can learn all about extension tubes and reverse rings and see how they compare to close-up lenses, both in ease of use and ability to capture really close-in photographs. That article also provides links to several other, in-depth guest posts on each piece of equipment individually.

Summary: Macro Photography

If you are interested in getting started with macro photography, the first step is to find out what you can accomplish with the camera(s) that you already own. Test out your lenses, find their minimum focusing distances, and see how close-in you can capture a subject. Practice using manual focus, focusing with your body, or even trying focus stacking using a series of shots.

If you like what you see but want more, consider purchasing a set of close up lenses, some extension tubes, or a reverse ring. Each of these can be had very inexpensively and will expand your macro photography repertoire. Perhaps you will find that you are constantly pushing against the limits of what your current equipment can do, and you might considering investing in a true macro lens, like the well-regarded Canon 100mm f/2.8. Or, you may just find that you can keep yourself endless entertained with the equipment that you already have. Macro photography opens up new worlds for you to shoot and explore. You may never have realized how intriguing your kitchen gadgets could be!

Bokeh-licious grater

Share your favorite macro shot below or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to see what others are shooting in macro this week.

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, September 3, 2014

Must Have Apps to Assist Your Photography

This post is the third in an occasional series on useful apps for photography. Part 1 covered Must Have Photography Apps and Part 2 covered Must Have Photography Processing Apps. This post will expand the conversation by introducing apps that can assist you in your photography - regardless of whether you are shooting with your phone, point-and-shoot camera, or DSLR.

The Photographers' Ephemeris

Desktop web app shown. Mobile apps contain the same information across multiple screens.

The Photographer's Ephemeris (free for computers, $4.99 for Android, or $8.99 for iPhones and iPads). The Photographers' Ephemeris is a must have app for planning a photography shoot, and one that I have mentioned many times before. The Ephemeris allows you to plot your location on a map and see the angles and timing of sunrise, sunset, moon rise, and moon set. The app has also been recently updated with more features, including the timings for the astronomical, nautical, and civil start and end times for twilight.

The Ephemeris allows you to plan both the timing and location of your shoot, depending on what you want to capture. If you want to shoot a sunset behind a famous landmark or the moon rising above a clear lake, you can determine exactly where (and when) to be to capture that exact event. Read more details in How to Shoot the Moon with the Photographers' Ephemeris.

Golden Hour and Blue Hour


Golden Hour apps (Exsate Golden Hour free for Android or Golden Hour by Roger Moffat $1.99 for iPhones and iPads). These two apps provide some of the same information as the Photographers' Ephemeris but with a focus on the timing for the Golden Hour and the Blue Hour. Both apps contain off-line information, so you can use them in locations without reliable internet or cell access.

The Android app also combines the current weather forecast for your location and summary recommendations about subjects to shoot. There is a map view that you can use, but it is a bit clunkier than the Ephemeris. This is a great one-stop shop for figuring out Golden Hour and Blue Hour timings. (Read more about Blue Hour Photography here.)


Soft Light or Soft Box style apps (Pocket Softbox free with ads for Android , Softlight free with adds for Android, or SoftBox Pro $0.99 for iPhone or $2.99 for iPad). There are several different apps available that allow you to use your phone or tablet as a light source or soft box. If you are using a tablet, you can set small objects on it and use your tablet as a light box directly. These apps work best in darker situations or as an accent to other lighting.


Pocket Softbox for Android allows you to swipe around the screen to change the color of the light - either using the Kelvin scale or RGB color wheel. There is a sliding scale at the bottom for brightness. You can also change the size of the light to a large circle to create interesting catchlights in the eye of your subject. There are a few loaded presets for the basic Kelvin white balances, but you cannot simply type in a color temperature or hex code to get the color you want, you can only find the right color by swiping. (Once found, however, a light color can be 'locked' or saved as a preset for later.)

Softlight for Android provides four sliding scales to adjust the color, hue, and brightness of the light emitted by the screen. Again, there is no way to 'program' in a specific color. (The ads and scroll bars go away after you have selected your color options.)

Soft Box Pro for Apple provides 15 different colors, 15 different softbox shapes, and 15 different grids or patterns to adjust the light. In-app purchases allow for additional options, including an RGB color wheel picker. Brightness can be adjusted across eight stops of light.

My Shot Lists

My Shot Lists (free for iPhone and iPad; no Android version, alas) is an easy-to-use app that includes more than 50 different categories of shots that you can use to create your own shot lists. This app is geared towards travel photographers and includes examples and information about each type of shot as well. You can also add notes to the categories or to your own photos as you go. Read more about Travel Photography and Why to Make a Shot List here.

ISS Detector


ISS Satellite Detector (free for Android$2.75 for the Pro Android version, and not available for Apple, though the free ISS Spotter has some of the same functionality) is a great app for astrophotography. This app alerts you to the position, timing, and brightness of iridium flares and passes of the International Space Station. (An iridium flare is a bright flash of light, often confused with a shooting star, created when the reflective surface of a satellite bounces light back down to Earth.) In app purchases (or the Pro version) allow you add information about satellites, comets, and other famous space objects, like the Hubble telescope. The app also syncs with local weather to offer predictions on viewing conditions. You can set alerts for objects, and the countdown plus compass insures you won't miss one! (Also an excellent way to impress your friends. Who doesn't want to watch the space station pass overhead?)

Summary: Apps to Aid Your Photography

Each of these apps can assist you in your photography, regardless of the type of camera you are using. Apps like the Photographer's Ephemeris, ISS Satellite Detector, and the Golden Hour apps will help you plan and prepare for your shot by figuring out where and when to shoot. My Shot List lets you plan and track your upcoming shoot and also serves as a great jumping off point for challenging yourself in your photography - give a new category or style a try. Finally, the lighting and softbox apps allow you to add light productively and creatively to your scene.

Did you miss the first two app posts? Check out Part 1: Photography Apps (apps for taking better photographs with your phone) and Part 2: Photography Processing Apps. Have another favorite app? Share your thoughts 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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blue Hour Photography

Blue Hour Photography: how to | Boost Your Photography
The Blue Hour is an incredible time for photography, but it is often less well-known than its flashy, warm precursor, the Golden Hour. The Blue Hour is that magical time of night when the sky turns a deep, dark blue that is captured beautifully by camera sensors. It has great potential for creating stand-out shots, especially of subjects like lit cities, glowing carnival lights, and light paintings. This post will explain the basics of the Blue Hour and how best to capture incredible Blue Hour shots.

Blue hour is also the weekly topic for the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge. Consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.

When Is the Blue Hour?

The Blue Hour is not always an hour, and it is not always blue. But, it is generally the time just following the sunset and Golden Hour or just before the sunrise and Golden Hour, and it most often lasts between an hour and only a half an hour. You can guesstimate the Blue Hour by adding about 15 minutes onto the sunset time (or subtracting 15 minutes from sunrise), or you can visit the Blue Hour Site, which has a handy Blue Hour calculator and will provide estimated starting and ending times for the Blue Hour. (There is also a link to a Flickr group with a lot of inspirational Blue Hour photographs.)

Shooting During the Blue Hour

Many of the same tips for Better Sunrises and Sunsets are also applicable to shooting during the Blue Hour, especially knowing when and where to shoot, creating foreground interest, and nailing the exposure. Think about bringing and using a tripod when shooting during the Blue Hour, as the fading light will have you wanting longer shutter speeds (read more about How to Maximize Your Tripod or a review of the GorillaPod line of travel tripods).

Try Tungsten White Balance for the Blue Hour | Boost Your Photography

If you shoot in JPEG, you may want to adjust your white balance to "tungsten" when shooting during the Blue Hour, especially if you are shooting a city or other bright lights at night. Tungsten will deepen and accentuate the blue elements, often making for a more dramatic shot. If you shoot in RAW, you have the ability to choose Tungsten later in post-processing.

Keep an eye on your LCD and histogram when shooting during the Blue Hour, as the light will be changing rapidly. (See Demystifying the Histogram for more details on using your histogram.) One great strategy is to shoot bracketed shots using exposure compensation, which is available on most DSLR cameras. This allows you to shoot a series of photographs at varying exposure values, such as -1, 0, and 1, which is a good interval to use.

Use Exposure Compensation to Shoot Bracketed Shots during the Blue Hour | Boost Your Photography Use Exposure Compensation to Shoot Bracketed Shots during the Blue Hour | Boost Your Photography

Comparing the three photographs above on the right, you can see how the underexposed shot (-1) brings out a deeper blue color in the sky when compared to the normally exposed (0) and overexposed (+1) images. This series was taken very early at the start of the Blue Hour, which is why the blue color is not as pronounced.

The left-hand series of three exposures was taken 15 minutes later, when the Blue Hour was in full swing. The deep blue skies are much more apparent across all three exposures. If you like the deeper, darker color, you might still prefer the underexposed version, but you might also find yourself drawn to the cheerier lighter blues of the normally exposed or overexposed versions too. This is the benefit of shooting bracketed shots: you can choose your favorites after the event, and you can always change your mind. As the Blue Hour rolls to an end and the sky becomes black, you might find that only the overexposed version retains any of the blue color.

Ideas for Blue Hour Subjects

Cities shine during the Blue Hour - Blue Hour Photography | Boost Your Photography

Cityscapes. Cities are an ideal subject for Blur Hour photography. The bright lights and moving traffic create a great contrast to the changing blues of the night or early morning sky. In the photograph above, the frozen ice and water on the lake echo the brilliant blues of the sky. (The purples towards the bottom are from the light reflecting off the ice.)

Blue hour adds drama to light painting | Boost Your Photography

Lights and Light Painting. Playing with lights is a particularly fun way to use the Blue Hour. You can use a flashlight to "paint" color or brightness onto a subject, or you can write, paint, draw or swirl with lights to create intricate patterns and designs. All of them are complemented by the blue tones of the Blue Hour. Read Light Painting: How to Spin an Orb for more specifics.

Make the most of the Blue Hour when shooting carnival rides | Boost Your Photography

Fairs, Festivals, and Carnivals. Anywhere with bright carnival rides is a great location for Blue Hour photography. After the sun sets and the blue hues come out, you can capture incredible long exposure shots using your camera, tripod, and remote shutter release. Vary your shutter speed, angle, and timing to create a wide variety of photographs. The photographs above show the difference between shooting during the Blue Hour and shooting after. The second shot was taken about a half-an-hour after the first. The blue color really adds to the brightness and drama compared to the black.

Use the Blue Hour for sparklers, fireworks, and steel wool ... oh my! | Boost Your Photography

Sparklers, Fireworks, and Steel Wool. You can also create amazing Blue Hour photographs with sparklers, fireworks, or steel wool. Again, the bright lights look even more amazing against a blue backdrop. Sadly, not all communities schedule the timing of their fireworks displays around the precise Blue Hour (how thoughtless!), but you can choose the time if you are using sparklers or steel wool. Read more about Spinning Fire and Steel Wool Photography and/or Quick Tips for Better Fireworks Photographs for more details.


The Blue Hour is a fascinating photographic time of night (or morning) and one worth exploring. Think about the kinds of subjects that might work well for a Blue Hour shot and get out there and make it happen! Share your photographs in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Round Up

Welcome to the Summer Round Up! This is a chance to look back at the posts from the last three months and catch up on any posts you might have missed.  You can also check out the previous round ups for Spring 2013, Summer 2013Fall 2013, Winter 2013-2014, and Spring 2014.

Consider joining in the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge! In September we will continue with out theme of exploring photographic subjects and styles. Join the Google+ Community to share your weekly photographs and receive feedback.

For Beginners

This is a collection of posts geared towards beginners or those who want to learn to do more with their camera. Many of the 'Tips and Tricks' and 'Inspired Ideas' posts will also be applicable. You can find other posts geared toward Beginners here or in the tab up top.



Strategic White Balance

Demystifying the

Teaching Kids Photography 2

Capturing Motion

For Beginners: Composition

The focus for June was on properties of composition, so it makes sense to list those as a separate sub-category.

Rule of Thirds

Leading Lines

Composition: Fill the Frame

Creative Ideas for Shutter Speed
Creative Ideas Using Shutter Speed

Tips and Tricks

Advice for getting the most out of your camera and your photography. You can find more Tips and Tricks posts here or in the tab up top.

Top Tips for Photography Portraits and Posing

Must Have
Camera Apps

Must Have Post-
Processing Apps

An Introduction
to Filters

How Do You Do
Black and White?

Better Back to
School Photos

Inspired Ideas

This is a collection of posts containing ideas, both those that you can implement immediately and those that require a little more time, effort, and potential planning. You can find more Inspired Ideas here or in the tab up top.

Quick Tips
for Fireworks

5 Tips for Better Sunrise and Sunset Photographs

Street Photography

Guest Posts

During the winter, I became a regular contributor to Digital Photography School. These are my posts that were published over on their site in the last few months.

Stay Connected

Be sure you don't miss a single post from Boost Your Photography. You can sign up to receive new posts by email, using the 'Follow by Email' subscription box in the right-hand column. (Email addresses will never be sold or distributed.)

Follow along on Facebook

Follow along on Google+

Follow along on Twitter

Follow along on Pinterest

Follow along on Bloglovin'