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Photo of the Week – How to Shoot Kids

I love shooting my kids because it makes me have fun and break all the rules.

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Now for some rules and techniques.

  • Always make sure it’s a fun idea and it gets the kids moving around
  • Kids shots aren’t formal portraits (that’s what school photos are for) so capturing them when they are being themselves
  • Make ensure they are part of the shoot and use their photos ideas
  • Don’t over direct them but also don’t let them go to crazy for too long

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When I shoot my kids I do it like a photojournalistic assignment. This means I take a lot of shots and don’t care if I don’t get all of them in focus or in frame. This frees me up to experiment and as I continue to shoot they will always relax and give you a nice smile of do something natural. If I am having fun the kids will pick up on it and relax too.

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  • I ask them to chase me and then I will shoot with the camera behind me to snap them running after me. You will get lots of waited shots but you only need one awesome shot to make your day.
  • I ask them to climb a tree and see who can get to the top fastest.
  • I ask them to cook some cookies and then shoot the whole proses including the eating part.
  • I ask them to read a book to their brother or sister and then shoot them interacting and being still.

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It’s all about getting them involved in something they enjoy and then recording it with a camera as many way as possible. They might grumble and roll their eyes at the beginning but soon they will forget you are there (or ignore you) and that’s when you will get a special shot that you will cherish for many years.

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If the children are shorter then you get down to their level even if it means you are laying on the ground. Remember to have fun and take way more shots than you need. Then when things have quieted down upload the shots to your computer and edit like crazy.

 

Next week I will get into “ISO Verses Grain” which will come in handy if you have to shoot in a “No Flash Allowed” situation.

Samples Basic-4

Photo of the Week – The Secret to Becoming a Better Photorapher

It’s easy really! Just shoot lots of images and correct your mistakes.

Series Name: Hiking

Snow Shots-4

  •  Canon G10
  • 6.1 mm Lens (28 mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/1600
  • F4
  • ISO 80
  • Sunny day
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

The trick is to keep shooting.

I often chat with people who have taken up photography and almost all of them are not shooting enough. You should be out every weekend shooting and if possible during the week as well. The hardest part of this approach isn’t the getting out or finding time to get out. The hardest part is finding stuff to shoot.

Yep it’s the biggest block for almost all photographers including seasoned pros. You have to have a defined goal or you will never get any shots when you go out shooting. The reason for this is that if you don’t have a goal then you can shoot anything and because of that you shoot nothing. Or if you do shoot you don’t shoot enough of the same thing so you can’t learn from your mistakes.

You can’t learn how to shoot a subject unless you shoot that subject a lot. If you want to become a better photographer you need to sit down and decide what you want to be good at shooting. Do you want great shots of your kids? Then take them to the park and photograph them every weekend (if possible). You will soon tire of what you are capturing and you will be forced to experiment and grow as a photographer.

Series Name: Flowers

Samples Basic-4

  • Canon G10
  • 6.1 mm Lens (28 mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/40
  • F2.8
  • ISO 80
  • Overcast day
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

The learning part of photography comes when you have captured all the basic shots and you now need to go beyond the basics. The best way to discover this is to take a hard look at your photos in the comfort of your home and think about a new angle or idea for you series. Eventually one thing will become apparent, you are stuck in a subject rut and you can’t think of anything “new” to move forward in your pursuit of an original way of shooting your chosen subject.

No problem, just run down to the library and grab a book on that subject. Look at what other photographers have done and see if you can mimic their idea. The next time you are out shooting try and capture that technique, pose or situation. Then when you are editing though those shots see if you have come close to capturing a similar image as the other photographers. If you have, do it again and again till you perfect it and then and only then can you start to work on a new technique. If you haven’t then look at the iamges that inspired you and caompare them to your shot. Cna you see what bthey did that you didn’t do? When you find out what it is then go out and try again.

Series Name: Kids

Samples Basic-2

  • Nikon D20
  • 28 mm lens
  • Shutter at 1/320
  • F10
  • ISO 400
  • Overcast day
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

However if after trying several times you still can’t capture that technique drop it and find a simpler technique. Once you have mastered that simpler assignment go back to the harder technique or to a new idea that you feel confident you can copy. Remember learning photography isn’t an overnight thing it’s a lifelong and a passion for perfecting your style. The joy you get from capturing that “special moment in time” is the big reward. So learn to love your mistakes and grow as a photographer every time you edit your shots.

Give yourself assignments that you can get into. If the assignment is to technically hard or you’re not ready to face people or situations to get a particular shot then drop that assignment and find  a new one that is less stressful or challenging. You can always go back to that challenge ones when you have more confidence.

When you do find a subject that you you enjoy shooting and you collect several techniques that helps you capture that subject well then you are well on your way to discovering your own personal style.

Series Name: Travel

Samples Basic-1

  • Canon G10
  • 6.1 mm Lens (28 mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/1600
  • F5
  • ISO 80
  • Sunny day
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

 

Next week: How to shoot kids.

Image-Selecion

Photo of the Week – Editing Through Hundreds of Shots to Get to The Perfect Image

How to get from this:

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To this:

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When I go out on an assignment (self or paid) I shoot a lot of images. I average 300 to 400 images per shoot and have the ability to edit down to the best within 2 hours once I am back in the studio. This is one skill you must master so that you have ability to edit those 400 plus shots down to 50 and then 1 top image.

But how can you get down to that final awesome image quickly and efficiently?

Be brutal, be honest and edit with a critical eye. If you have several images that are similar then pick the one that jumps out. If non of them do, then don’t choose any. If you’re not super critical your final portfolio of images will never really wow people.

Learn from your choices. If an image is almost good enough to get to round 2 then stop for a bit and think how you could have improved that shot so that it would have made it to the next round. This is one of the best ways to become a better photographer. You must learn to shoot a verity of shots for a specific scene or subject that has grabbed your attention and to ignore shots that you know will not make it in the editing proses.

First round: Editing down to 100 shots from 400 or more shots.
1: Is the subject in focus?
2: Is the image in correctly exposed?
3: Is the image composed well?
4: Are there any distracting elements in the image?

Now comes the hard edit because you need to make quick emotion driven decisions.

Second round: Editing down to 15 to 35 great shots from 100 shots.
1: Is the image your *style?
2: Does the image have emotional impact for you?
3: Does the image portray the subject or experience you where trying to capture?
4: Can you edit or manipulate the image to make even better?

Final picks after editing and retouching your top 15 or 35 images. Remember that good image manipulation can make a big difference in a shot.

Third round: Editing down to 1 or 5 amazing shots from 15 to 35 shots.
You should have 1 shot you think is awesome and between 4 and 8 shots you like a lot. Print the one shot that is awesome and star the rest (4 star) for your image library.

Important NOTE: Some time you don’t get to do the 3rd round because you don’t have any shots from the shoot that you deem worth putting in your portfolio. This is a good thing because only photographers who understand and can recognize their own personal style can do this on a regular bases, including me.

As you build your portfolio you will end up with 3 sets of images.

Set 1 are all 5 stars:
Your first set will be the images you show people you want to impress with your photographic skills.

Set 2 are all 4 stars and catalogued under a subject (cars, food, flowers, etc):
This set is for people who are interested in a particular subject so will appreciate a good shot about that particular subject (They have a biased opinion and if they LOVE one of your images take it with a grain of salt and do not add it to set 1).

Set 3 are all 0 stars:
Finally you will have a large collection of images you may rarely look at again. You should never show these images to other people because all it will do is bore them or make them think you are a crap photographer. If you don’t have room on your hard drive delete these images.

*Your Style: This is a hard thing to understand and you will need to take many thousands of shots to discover what your style actually is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Camera Olympus OMD E5
  • 14 mm Lens (28mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/60
  • F2.5
  • ISO 2000
  • Overcast day
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

 

Next week: Giving yourself assignments to keep shooting and to discovering your own personal style.

Coke-Can

Photo of the Week – The 5 Secrets of Great Composition

Getting great shots isn’t all about expensive equipment. It’s about using these simple rules again and again till they become second nature.

 

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1:  That Rule of thirds:
This is by far the best and easiest to remember because with most camera you can have the grid on your viewing screen. The rule is that your subject should be in the access of the intersecting lines or along one of the lines. Here is an example from one of my shots. The reason that the image looks better is basically because the eye (and your brain) likes to see things that are balanced and using this rule helps you balance a composition. It doesn’t work 100% of the time though but if you use it you will defiantly get better compositions more often than not.

 

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2:  Lead the Eye Into an Image
This is an basic tip but a very relevant one. The human eye like to be led around. This is used marketing design all the time. If you guide the eye through the use of lines the eye will actually follow those lines into the images composition. Here is another example that show this effect in action.

3:  Messy Backgrounds are Your Enemy
A big tip for any photographer is to train the eye to see what they are looking at in the view finder. Yes you may think you are seeing but what your eye is doing is focusing on the subject and not the whole image. Look at the background to see if there is a pole sticking out of the person head or is the background confusing and too busy? Sound simple but it takes a lot of skill to slow down and see what your camera is capturing so that when you get back to your house to start editing you aren’t constantly frustrated with the background compromising great shots.

4:  See the World at Different Heights
Never and I mean never stand lock kneed and shoot an image. Even before you bring the camera to your eye stop and look. Is there a better angel to the subject. Bend down, sand on a bench and then start to work the subject or scene with the camera to your eye. I have gotten some amazing shots from having the camera almost touching the ground and in other cases standing on a char in a crowded room. Don’t worry what other’s may think these are the same people who will say “Wow what a great shot” if you get that a shot that makes the composition shine.

Frame-image5 Frame the Image to Please the Eye
An image that is good can become great if you use foreground elements to help frame the subject. I often use tress to frame a landscape scene to give it a much more interesting composition (see example). It’s always good to experiment and take several shoots so one of those shots should always try and have some sort of framing using. remember shots don’t cost you anything in the digital age. You will be happier back home on the computer if you have 5 shots of a scene at different angles instead of one shot that you don’t like. Once you have left a location it is rare that you will return and grab that extra shot. So always stop and take more shots so that you will improve your chances of capturing that elusive special angel that brings it all together.

 

Nest week: How to edit all these shots quickly and ruthlessly

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Photo of the Week – Making Moving Water Look Fantastic

If you go out into the woods or even to a beach you can get shots like this almost every time.

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This was shot on a cloudy day deep inside a forest. If you aren’t ready for an opportunity then you will never get the shot. The secret for this type of shot is very slow exposures. That’s why I take a light weight tripod with me.

You can even take one of those mini tripods so that you are covered in a pinch. I prefer a medium tripod for traveling light but it still has some build and weight. I like this because I don’t end up with all extremely low shots (which looks great in some situations) and the extra weight holds the camera steady.

Take several minutes to find a great composition and solid ground so that your tripod is rock solid. Set your camera at the highest aperture (F16 or F22) and set the camera on a 2 second timer (now you know why this is and option on your camera). Also make sure you set your ISO to the lowest setting.(my camera only goes down to ISO 200 but a lot of cameras can go down as low as 80) Carefully press the shutter release and do not move. If you walk away you will shake the ground and blurred the image.

With your camera at these setting you will get a 1 to 5 second exposure depending on where you are. If you are in the open it’s best to weight till later in the day and the light starts to dime a bit. If you want to really do this technique a lot you can also get neutral density filters (kind of like sunglasses filters) to reduce the light going into your lens.

TIP: If you want your tripod to be even more solid bring a small bag with draw strings (this only works with bigger tripods and not mint tripods). Fill it will rocks and hang it on your tripod so that the rocks stabilize the tripod. (make sure the bag is not swinging when releasing the shutter of course)

Next Week: The 5 secrets of great composition and why you need to know them.

Merchant with a used stuff store

Photo of the Week – The Last Smile

Getting a beautiful black and white shot is not as hard as it used to be.

Merchant with a used stuff store

It used to be that you developed your own B&W film using different chemicals and agitation to get a certain grain and tonal range. Then you dodged and burned while exposing the paper using your negative. All this to get a beautiful B&W photo to jump off the page. These days it’s all about using Photoshop and other processing programs like Lightroom 5 and Aperture.

The secret is to make sure you are shooting in a RAW formate so that you have enough data to import into one of these programs. More dat means a wide enough tonal range to create punchy blacks and crisp whites without blowing all the information (pixels) away. RAW is the only way to go if you are planning on creating stunning shots and not just family snaps. I have my camera set up for RAW with no JPG for about 80% of the shots that I take. The other 20% is for family or fun nights out. The I switch over to JPG large with fine grain.

For RAW it’s best to expose for the highlights and not worry too much about the blacks.

So now that you have your RAW image selected from the 90 shots you took it’s time to invest a couple of hours to make the image pop of the page (or screen). Keep the whites hot and the black rich by tweaking the curves. Add a bit of vignetting to bring the eye into the image and focus more on the subject. Here is a great tutorial on how to get close to this look. Remember it’s not about copying what I have done but you deciding what pleases your eye. You are not doing photography to get praise from everyone who looks at your shots you are doing photography to make your inner artist pleased with the results.

  • Camera Olympus OMD E5
  • 45 mm Lens (90mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/4000
  • F1.8
  • ISO 6400
  • Window Light inside store
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

By the way, the reason this post is called “The Last Smile” is that I took over 90 exposures of this guy in about 20 minute. This was the last shot I took, so remember to shoot more than you think you need because the next shot may be the best of the day.

Next Week: Get silky smooth moving water shots every time.

Butter Chicken Lunch

Photo of the Week – Food for the Eyes

You don’t have to have a fancy camera to take great shots.

Butter Chicken Lunch

I was taking “street shots” on Commercial Drive (Vancouver) the other day and popped into my favorite Indian restaurant for some Bob fuel. This place is a well kept secret and I do recommend that you grab your camera and head on down for some delightfully presented and delicious food if you are in the area. The chief is very personable and always comes out to chat with the dinners.

You can get great shots with simple cameras but you do have to be able to see light and understand how composition works to get the most out of them. I change the settings more often than not by fooling the phone into getting the exposure I want. In this case I metered the curry (nice mid tone) for a good overall exposure and let the rice go a bit hot.

  • Camera Nexus 4 phone (Pure Google experience)
  • 4.6 mm Lens (35mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/16
  • F2.65
  • ISO 100
  • Window Light on Black table
  • Processing in Aviary Android App (just cropping and adding frame)

Next week I will talk about how to get wide tonal range black and white images from RAW files.

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Photo of the Week – Hungry Eyes

If you want to get great shots you have to have your camera with you at all times.

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This is the most important attitude for any photographer.  We all carry cameras in our phones so you should know how to use your phone camera too.

On this day I was having lunch at the Granville Island Market after a long day of lighting design work for a web series I am helping to produce.

On my way out of the market I walked through the maze of stalls with my camera ready. I grabbed 15 shots during my walk to the exit. This one is the winner. When shooting street style always take a ton of shots and edit mercilessly when you are back home.

  • Shot with Olympus OMD E5
  • 45mm Lens (90mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/100
  • F1.8
  • ISO 320
  • Indoor with florissant and tungsten light
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

Next week I will show you a spectacular shot from my humble Nexus 4 phone.

Purple Mt Flower

Photo of the Week – Mountain Flower

This is the beginning of a new visual and content project. It will consist of photographs I have taken with some teachings for each shot.

Purple Mt Flower

  • Shot with Canon G10 camera
  • 28mm Lens (macro mode)
  • Shutter at 1/160
  • F3.5
  • ISO 80
  • Overcast with sunny patches
  • Processing in Lightroom 5

This was taken on a 30km hike (10 hours) in the sumer of 2013. The difficulty of shooting on a hike of this duration is keeping up with the other hikers on the trip.It’s very easy to get carried away while shooting. I like shooting under pressure (deadline) because it makes you shoot faster and disregard all but the most amazing photographic opportunities.

When shooting flowers try and use a neutral background so that the subject pops. This is also a good technique for portraits. In this case the warm rock color accentuates the purple flower nicely.