Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Easy Setup for Formal Newborn Photography

Captured using setup and blanket shown below

There are two main types of newborn photography: posed, formal portraits, often shot against a backdrop and informal or lifestyle photographs of the newborn and family, usually shot in their home using the home itself as the backdrop. This post will focus on the formal style of shots, and a later post will provide tips for lifestyle newborn photography.

Set-Up for Newborn Photography


The key to formal newborn photographs is using a backdrop. You can either buy a backdrop stand or make one yourself out of PVC. You want something that is portable and easy to assemble and disassemble as most newborn sessions are done in the family's home. (I use a backdrop stand made by Square Perfect that comes with a carrying case and that I can set up or take down in under 4 minutes. See the stand I use here.)

Where you set up for your shoot will depend on the house and especially on the windows and position of the sun. Newborn photography works best with natural light. You do not want to use your flash on an infant! Look for a room in the house with large windows and ample natural light. Bedrooms work especially well, as you can use the bed for posing.


For this particular shoot, we were using the main family room and the large, sturdy coffee table as our base. You can see a big, fuzzy blanket pinned to the backdrop stand and draped over the coffee table. Though it is hard to discern in this image, the backdrop is angled towards the windows, which wrap all the way behind where I am standing to take this picture.

The basket has a heavy cookbook in the bottom for stability and then blankets rolled up inside for comfort - the roll at one end makes a bit of a pillow to elevate the baby's head. Pillows and additional blankets were placed on top of the coffee table and underneath the backdrop when photographing the baby without the basket.


The image above was taken during this shoot using the backdrop exactly as shown. For the formal family shots, I switched to a black background, and the parents simply sat on the coffee table. Always make sure that you have a backdrop that is large enough for everyone.


Want to learn more about newborn photography? Click here to see the other posts in this series. What else do you want to know? Leave a question in the comments below, and it could be featured in a future post!





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, June 27, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography



Consider joining in the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge! Our focus for July is photography basics. Join the Google+ Community to share your weekly photographs and receive feedback. New members are always welcome!

2014:

  • Quick Tips for Better Fireworks Photographs. With July right around the corner, what better time to brush up on your techniques for photographing fireworks! This post lays out everything you need to know, including suggestions for equipment and settings.
  • Composition: Orientation. Do you think about why you hold your camera the way that you do? Find out how to use orientation intentionally, whether you are shooting horizontally or vertically.

  • Composition: Framing. You can use other elements in your image to frame your main subject. Find out how to use framing to make an impact in your photographs!


2013:



  • Travel Photography: Make a Shot List. Traveling at all this summer? Be sure that you come home with all of the shots that you want - find out why and how to make a shot list and get all of the photographs that you are after.

  • Postcards from Rainier. A photo-walk through of a recent trip to Mount Rainier National Park, including some thoughts about how to make the best of the photography situations that you encounter when traveling.


  • Make the Shot: Spoon Reflection Photography. Have a camera? Have a spoon? Have a great time getting some creative shots using spoon reflections. This how to posts gives you all the tips you need to know to get great shots like the one above.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

3 Month Baby Portraits

I am putting the finishing touches on a series of how to and behind-the-scenes posts about baby and newborn photography. Just thought I'd share some of my favorite images from a recent shoot with this adorable little 3 month old.








What questions do you have about baby and newborn photography? Ask away in the comments section, and I will make sure to address as many questions as possible in upcoming posts!








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, June 20, 2015

Photographer Gordon Parks

I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Gordon Parks until I heard about the new picture book biography about him and his photography: Gordon Parks: how the photographer captured black and white America.


Briefly, Gordon Parks was born in 1912 came of age in Jim Crow-era America. As a photographer, he sought to bring to life the trials and tribulations of African-American lives, including those of the working poor. He was the first black photographer for Life magazine and the first African-American to write and direct a feature film. His images are immediately iconic and powerful. He is a photographer worth knowing.

More about Gordon Parks


If you, like me, did not know about Gordon Parks, I encourage you to seek out his work and learn more about him.

Legends Online has a collection of 20 images by Parks, along with a summary of their background and impact, which are well worth viewing.

Huffington Post has an article including information (and images) of several "never before seen" Parks shots from the 1950s.

The Gordon Parks Foundation has an extensive web site devoted to

There is even a Gordon Parks Museum and Center for Culture and Diversity, located in Fort Scott, Kansas. This year's annual photography competition is open to amateurs only this year, and the deadline is October 1st.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Crystal Ball Photography


A crystal ball is for more than having your fortune told - read on for some fun and easy photography ideas using a crystal ball!

Where to Buy a Crystal Ball


Crystal balls (or meditation globes, as they are more commonly listed) are inexpensive and available from online retailers like Amazon. The one that I own, and that was used for all the photographs in this article, is the 80mm size and comes with its own tiny holder and case. (As currently listed, it retails for $16.)  At just over 3 inches in diameter, this one is a great size for holding in your hand.

Some people prefer larger sizes, which are a bit easier to photograph: the larger size better fills your image and reflects more of the scene. The 110mm size is the next size up. The downside to the larger crystal ball is its weight and portability. These are solid quartz crystal, which gives them surprising heft for their size. The 110mm size is much more suitable for shooting it in a stand, rather than hand-holding.


The final option is to go a bit smaller, with the 50mm (or 2 inch) size. The smaller size makes it much more portable and easier to carry. It is harder to capture a frame-filling image with the smaller crystal ball, unless you are placing it in a stand and shooting with a zoom lens from further back. I have seen some really unique shots taken with several small crystal balls together.

Techniques for Photographing a Crystal Ball


The easiest way to photograph a crystal ball is to find a place where you can set the ball, leaving both your hands free for photographing. This also gives you the advantage of moving further away and choosing your composition. (I'll talk more about how to successfully shoot while hand-holding in a minute.)


Try to find a place that is elevated, relative to your subject. A crystal ball flips and distorts the scene that is behind it. If you place the ball down on the ground, much of your reflection will simply be the ground. By getting the crystal ball up higher, and by shooting from below it, you emphasize the sky and above-ground features of your subject.

As for settings, you usually want to crisply capture the subject as show inside the crystal ball. I have found that a good mid-range aperture, in the f/8 to f/10 range, works well. In most circumstances, if there is a little distance between the ball and your subject, this will also render the background out-of-focus. If you want the background more in focus and distinguishable, choose a narrower aperture. (The trees, above, were shot at f/11.)

Crystal Ball Composition Suggestions


The benefit of hand-holding the crystal ball while shooting is that you have instant flexibility to choose your subject and choose your relationship to that subject. Moving the ball closer will emphasize the distortion and bending, while moving the ball further away will render the subject in a more realistic manner.


The most difficult aspect of shooting while holding the ball (other than stabilizing your camera while shooting with one hand) is keeping in mind the minimum focusing distance. Every lens has a minimum distance at which it can find focus. If your camera is too close to your crystal ball, then it will be unable to focus anywhere in/on the ball. (I sometimes find myself having to lean away slightly while extending my hand out to its maximum to be able to get the camera to focus.)


Look at your images right-side up and upside down before picking a favorite. Sometimes you may find it more pleasing to have the image within the ball "right-side up," but other times you may prefer to have the crystal ball image inverted, with the background right-side up.


Try experimenting with subjects that have lots of lines. The crystal ball causes interesting distortion effects that become more exaggerated the closer you have the ball to your subject.

Cautions when Photographing a Crystal Ball


The main caution when photographing a crystal ball is to beware of direct sunlight. Like any type of glass or lens, a crystal ball bends sunlight, and you can find yourself unintentionally concentrating that sunlight - perhaps into your camera lens (not great) or onto yourself (ouch!).

I nearly dropped my crystal ball while hand-holding it for a shot, because the sun was located right where its light through the ball became concentrated on my finger!

The other thing to keep in mind is simply to be ready for the weight of the ball. Even with my 80mm crystal ball, if I am carrying it around in my purse or camera bag for too long, the weight can real start to take a toll on my shoulder. Plan ahead, and you shouldn't have any problems.

Do you have a favorite crystal ball shot? Share a link 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, June 13, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

2014:


  • Composition: Leading Lines. Lines are a powerful compositional tool. Find out how to use lines to lead your viewer's eye into and through your photographs.
  • Composition: Fill the Frame. Find out why you need to get closer to your subject. There are many benefits for trying to fill the frame!
  • Top Tips for Photography Portraits and Posing. Poses are key for quick, easy, and incredible portraits! This collection of posts contains tons of great advice, suggestions, and example poses to use to make a dramatic and immediate impact on your portrait photography!


2013:

  • All about Exposure. The second post in our occasional series aimed at beginners covers all about exposure, including correct, creative, and equivalent exposures. The second-half of the article offers suggestions about how to perfect your exposure when out shooting.

  • Puddle Reflection Photography: how to. Make the most out of a recent rain storm - try your hand at puddle reflection photography! This technique works best with point-and-shoot cameras, and you can get amazing pictures out of even small puddles (like the gutter above).
  • Why and How to Tag Your Photographs. Never lose track of another photograph - find out why and how to tag your photographs. Tags are an incredibly useful tool, and if you do yet have a method for tagging your photographs, you will definitely want to give this one a read.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography


Here are this month's topics for BYP 52 Weeks Challenge. New members are always welcome. Join here.

2014


  • Shutter Speed Guidelines. Do you know which shutter speeds to use in which situations? Need to know how best to freeze motion or to capture silky water? This quick overview of shutter speed guidelines (plus cheat sheet) has your answers.

  • ISO Basics. Get the details you need about ISO and understand the impact of shooting with lower vs. higher ISO values.



2013:
  • Light Painting: How to Spin an Orb. This article walks you step-by-step through the process of spinning and creating orbs with light painting. All you need is a bright LED light, a tripod for your camera, and a little bit of practice. You'll be surprised at how easy these are to do!
  • Travel Photography Must Haves. Don't leave for your next summer trip without making sure you have all the travel photography supplies you need! This quick article will get you started with all the basics for bringing back home amazing travel photographs.
  • Be a Local Tourist: Photograph a Farmers' Market. Photography opportunities are all around you. Take a trip to your local Farmers' Market to discover a wealth of photographic options. Practice your street or travel photography, zoom in on some curious details, or just wait for inspiration to strike!
  • Remember the Background and Move Your Feet. This article focuses on an oft-forgot point of composition: the background. Rather than getting sucked into your subject, take the time to pay attention to the background and see how moving your motion or perspective can make an immediate impact.

Don't Miss a Single Post from Boost Your Photography

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