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Tea Break Tog Photography Podcast

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Arts
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For Photographers - on their tea break!

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For Photographers - on their tea break!

iTunes Ratings

6 Ratings
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By justice guy - Oct 19 2017
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Julie gives clear explanations of practical topics that I've found very helpful. Her Scottish accent is fun to listen to. It's well thought out and I appreciate that the episodes are only about 20 minutes long. And I like her ability to explain a topic while not talking down to you like we're ignorant. Well worth your time!

Insightful information & great host. Worth a listen

By D> - Aug 18 2016
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This photo podcast gets beyond the hype and fluff of most other photo podcasts and delves into real-world photography for normal humans. The down to earth presentation and to the point delivery is refreshing and informational in the best way. Not very technical, but an honestly good podcast to help steer your photographic approach. Give it a listen if you are learning or even advanced in photography. The insights and conversations are well worth a download.

iTunes Ratings

6 Ratings
Average Ratings
6
0
0
0
0

Helpful

By justice guy - Oct 19 2017
Read more
Julie gives clear explanations of practical topics that I've found very helpful. Her Scottish accent is fun to listen to. It's well thought out and I appreciate that the episodes are only about 20 minutes long. And I like her ability to explain a topic while not talking down to you like we're ignorant. Well worth your time!

Insightful information & great host. Worth a listen

By D> - Aug 18 2016
Read more
This photo podcast gets beyond the hype and fluff of most other photo podcasts and delves into real-world photography for normal humans. The down to earth presentation and to the point delivery is refreshing and informational in the best way. Not very technical, but an honestly good podcast to help steer your photographic approach. Give it a listen if you are learning or even advanced in photography. The insights and conversations are well worth a download.
Cover image of Tea Break Tog Photography Podcast

Tea Break Tog Photography Podcast

Latest release on Apr 29, 2016

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For Photographers - on their tea break!

Rank #1: How to hold your camera for sharpness – Photography for Beginners Series – Ep.35

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How to hold your camera for sharpness – Photography for Beginners Series

This episode goes right back to basics! Do you know how to hold your camera for sharpness? That’s what is on the agenda today. Not just how to hold that camera of yours but also how to stand or crouch when you are taking photographs. When it comes to your technique, it is all about awareness. I’m going to really help you with this today!

This is a podcast episode – better to listen but, as always, you can read instead if you prefer…

Maybe you are thinking that this is way too basic for you.

You already know how to stand and hold your camera. You don’t need taught how to do this most elementary of things for goodness sake!

Well listen up if that is you. We all fall so easily into bad habits. Think about when you learned to drive and you followed all the guidance on how to place both your hands on the steering wheel at all times and how to feed the wheel between your hands to turn corners.

After you passed your test, how long was it before you had one hand on the wheel and were crossing your arms over each other to turn your car?

We are all guilty of this.

We forget the reasoning behind the most basic things we are taught in life and we end up finding easier, quicker or more comfortable ways.

Sometimes the ways we find are actually better for us or just as good and, if so, happy days. That’s great! However, sometimes the way we end up doing something is actually just lazy, sloppy and ineffective.

That’s all assuming you actually were taught in the first place! Many of you are self-starters and you teach yourselves as you go along. It may well be that you didn’t ever learn how to stand or crouch when you are shooting and how to hold your camera. Maybe you didn’t know that it actually mattered as much as it does. In that case, this episode is a MUST LISTEN!

As many of you know I teach beginner photography workshops every month in Scotland. I see 12 new learners every month and I absolutely love it! The images in this post are from a recent workshop, in fact.

Before I take everyone out in the afternoon for the practical part of the day, I always go over stance and grip. Most of the attendees have already fallen into bad habits just from their experience in automatic mode. They generally have no idea that stance and grip play such a vital role in the sharpness of your images.

And yes, I said VITAL.

Is stance and grip all that matters when it comes to sharpness? Absolutely no way! Hopefully I have made it clear by now that there are many things to consider when it comes to sharp focus in your photography. Your technique is just one of them. But it is an important one and it can be the difference between a sharp image and a blurry one, especially if your shutter speed is on the slow side.

I see photographers all the time with poor shooting technique. I can see the camera moving about as they try to capture beautiful photographs. They ask me why their images are blurry and I ask them;

‘How aware are you of what your body is doing when you are taking a photograph?’

Generally they look at me with a very confused expression. ‘Not very aware at all’ is clearly the answer.

And they are not alone. Most photographers are so caught up in the act of creating images that they just shoot, and shoot, and shoot with no thoughts about what their hands, feet, back and elbows are doing. Sure, they end up with lots of blurry images but their solution to that is just to take loads and loads of shots because they know some will turn out sharp.

The reason I know this is not just because I have worked with hundreds of learners. It’s also because I used to do this too!

But there is a better way, and it’s all about awareness.

Firstly, you must have an awareness of all the ways your body can ruin your attempts at a nice sharp image.

  • If you are wobbly on your feet, your camera will wobble too meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you are not supporting your camera and lens properly with your hands, your camera will move around meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If your elbows are out to the side, it is harder to keep your camera still meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you compose with your camera out in front of you (using your screen instead of your viewfinder), your camera is more likely to sway meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you are out of breath and your chest is rapidly rising and falling, your camera will move with it meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If your hands are shaking then your camera is shaking too meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you support your camera just with your arms, they will get tired. Tired arms are wobbly arms meaning you have more chance of camera shake.

Sometimes we can’t prevent some of these things occurring. Maybe you are shaky. I have a pretty shaky grip myself. You might have a medical condition that means you have tremors or you are unsteady on your feet. Maybe you are out of breath because of what you are shooting. I photograph children playing a lot. I have to run about all over the place and I am often shooting whilst out of breath.

I am not in any way saying that you can’t shoot a sharp image if you shake or if you wobble or if you are out of breath.

What I am saying is that you have to be aware of the impact all of this can have. If something is causing you to wobble or shake or move a lot and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it then you need to make sure that you make every effort to minimize it as much as you are able to and you need to combat it in other ways that you are in control of such as ensuring your shutter speed is fast enough.

But let’s be honest. Often we are in control of these things. Often there is no reason that you couldn’t keep that camera steadier.

And that is the second part of the awareness you must have. The first is being aware of all the things that can cause your camera to shake and your images to be blurry. The second is having an awareness of what your body is doing the moment before you press the shutter button to capture that image.

Where are your elbows?

They should be firmly pressed in to your body and not out to the side. Why? The closer they are to your body the more stability you will give your camera. The further out to the side your elbows go, the wobblier your camera will become and the more tired your arms will become! Use your whole body to support your camera, not just your arms!

Where is your right hand?

It should be gripping the right side of your camera where your shutter button and exposure dials are. Why? Unfortunately, left-handed cameras are not exactly widely available. There are some but they are few and far between. Trying to reach across with your left hand would cause all sorts of camera wobbles!

If you are a lefty and you are listening to this episode thinking this is all very unfair. You are right! Why on earth are there not left-handed versions of more cameras?

You can have a look online at solutions people have found using adaptors and such. Or you can just accept it and get used to using your right hand.

Where is your left hand?

It should be cradling your lens – underneath the lens and not over the top or to the side. Why? If your left hand is over the top of your lens that means your elbow is out to the side (see above). Believe me the other reason your left hand should be underneath your lens will become very obvious the minute you attach a very long, heavy, telephoto lens to your camera. Those things need support or they will cause you to wobble about something awful…

What is your back doing?

It should be as straight as possible! Why? Your body must help to support your camera. If you are bent over you are allowing your arms to do most of the camera support but at the same time your poor posture will make your back ache later and depending on how much you shoot could lead to serious back problems.

If you need to get lower, bend your knees, rest an elbow on your thigh and keep your back straight. If you need to get super-low, lie down on the ground!

What are your feet doing?

They should be hip distance, or further, apart. Why? The closer your feet are together, the more likely you are to wobble. If the ground is pretty even then hip distance apart will do. If it’s uneven then going for a wider stance is a good idea. Finding a rock or tree stump to place one foot on can really help you get a steady stance on uneven ground.

How are you breathing?

You should try to keep your breathing as even and slow as possible. It is easy to get out of breath when you are shooting though, it happens to me all the time! If you do find that you are puffing a bit, just be aware of it and steady it for each shot. Sometimes if my chest is really heaving from running around I will very briefly hold my breath whilst I press the shutter button to steady myself.

Where is your camera?

Preferably, it should be against your face as you look through your viewfinder. Why? If you hold it out in front of you and use your screen to compose the shot then it is nowhere near as steady as it is pressed against your face. You are leaving your arms to do all the supporting. When it is against your face with your elbows in, your back straight, your feet apart and your hands in the correct position then you are using your entire self to support that camera and keep it still.

I know some cameras don’t have a viewfinder. If you have one like this, just be extra vigilant. Don’t hold it out too far, keep those elbows in, straighten that back and widen that stance. You’ll be fine!

But that is so much to think about! I will never remember all of that!

Yes you will. Like I said, it’s all about awareness. Every time you take a photograph just take a moment to scan your body. It will take only a second.

Even better, go out for a few practice sessions with the sole purpose of improving your stance and grip. Make that the focus of your session.

If you work hard at this awareness for just a short while then it won’t be long until you never have to think about it again. It will be second nature to you.

Are you still thinking that this is all a bit over the top?

Humour me and follow the advice for a few weeks. If you don’t see an increase in the percentage of sharp images after a shoot I will eat my camera bag…

The post How to hold your camera for sharpness – Photography for Beginners Series – Ep.35 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 18 2016

18mins

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Rank #2: Using leading lines in photography – Composition Series – Ep. 38

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Using leading lines in photography

Today is part three of my Composition Series and I am talking about using leading lines in photography. These lines are everywhere if you just open your eyes to them and, used well, they can elevate your image to a new level. But how do you use them well?

As always, this originated as a podcast episode but if you would rather read, we have catered for you too!

Let’s think about what makes you fall in love with an image. Or even just what makes you look at an image for longer than you usually would. For me, that is when I know I have created something worthwhile. If someone looks at my image for a little longer than is normal then I am happy. That certainly doesn’t always mean that they love it – they might be trying to work it out or they might even hate it. But the fact is, they are looking. It has grabbed them in some way.

They are consuming the image rather than just breezing over it. For me that is a win.

But what makes someone stay and look for longer? Of course, the subject matter can play a huge part in this. If the subject itself is extraordinary or the scene captured is unusual then the impact of these alone might be enough to stop the viewer in her tracks and encourage her to examine the photograph more closely. However, more often than not, we are photographing pretty standard subjects and scenes. In these scenarios it is how we photograph these ‘standard’ subjects that makes our viewers decide whether to just glance over or whether to stay and study our creation for a little longer.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather they did the latter…

We have already discussed the use of the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. We have also delved into the wonders of foreground. Using these well can certainly encourage your viewer to stay around for a while and drink your image in.

I am always encouraging the photographers I teach to think of themselves as storytellers. When you take a snapshot you simply capture what is in front of you with no real artistic intent. Most snapshots don’t require much of the viewer. You can look at any part of it you choose or just take it all in as one and it probably won’t evoke much in the way of reaction or feeling.

As a photographer you don’t want that! Anyone can take a snapshot. You want to take your viewer on a journey. You want to tell them a story.

To tell them that story you must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The only way to do this in photography is through clever composition.

If you compose your image with some thought and consideration, you are effectively showing your viewer around your scene. They will begin at the place where you wanted them to start and they will travel through, looking at everything you intended for them to see before finally leaving the image at the point where you meant them to finish up. If you manage that – you are certainly onto something!

Using leading lines is a fabulous way of doing this. A leading line in a photograph directs your attention to the subject or to the heart of a scene or even sometimes towards infinity (when you can’t actually see the end of the line). Generally it will start at, or near, the bottom of the frame and it leads your eye to where it matters. Leading lines can be straight, wavy or jagged and they don’t have to be singular. They can be several lines working together.

And let me tell you something, once you open your eyes and your mind to leading lines you will see them EVERYWHERE YOU GO!

Paths, roads, bridges and staircases

These are the most obvious leading lines, but just because they are obvious it doesn’t make them less effective. I use them all the time. These are lines you actually use to travel in real life. They go somewhere so your eyes can’t help but follow them. Often you can’t actually see where they end in a photograph meaning you can really get lost in an image that uses them well. These leading lines can be the main element of the scene or they can be used as a setting for your main subject.

Railings, walls and fences

These are everywhere – so use them! You can ask your subject to lean against them whilst you shoot along or you can use them to lead up to a stationary subject in the distance. Often it is not just the wall or fence itself that is leading, the elements that make it up can also ‘lead’. For example, brickwork or stonework lines or wooden slats can all lead to the heart of your scene too.

Long grass, trees, foliage

Not so obvious perhaps but super-effective. Long grass blowing in the wind can make gorgeous leading lines full of texture. Rows of trees or foliage can also work to bring the eye inwards. You might have to look a little harder for these but when you start seeing them you won’t be able to stop.

Rows

Rows of anything. Buildings, flowers, crops, gravestones, street lights, pillars, cars, bicycles, condiments, crockery, boats, bottles, books, candles, street wares, people, hay bales, chairs. You could make an interesting photograph from almost any row. Look for them and try to photograph them in as many different ways as possible.

https://www.mrwallpaper.com

Light

Light creates leading lines too and the magical thing about leading lines made from light is that they appear, disappear and change before your very eyes. Long shadows cast across the ground, light trails from car headlights and rays of sun shining into a room can lead the eye in the same way as more ‘physical’ lines can.

Sky and Water

Clouds often end up in formations that make fantastic leading lines and, used well, can lead the viewer’s eye towards infinity or towards a spectacular sunset, cityscape or landscape. Equally, a beautiful shoreline or dramatic waves in the ocean can’t help but invite the eye to follow. Make sure that it is worth the journey!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/amazingsky/19199122758

https://500px.com/photo/4274440/incoming-tide-by-peter-bolman

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Almost anything can become a leading line given the right perspective and some creativity.

Open your eyes to these opportunities. Make it your goal to find as many leading lines in one day as you possibly can. Activities like this truly help you to hone your creative eye.

Do you have any ‘leading lines’ you can add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Don’t forget to sign up for my FREE live webinar. It is happening on Tuesday 8th March at 8pm. I will be talking you through the three completely different ways you can use the light from just one window in your natural light people photography.

This has passed now but you CAN watch the recording right here.

The post Using leading lines in photography – Composition Series – Ep. 38 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 02 2016

15mins

Play

Rank #3: Focus point selection or focus and recompose? – Photography for Beginners Series – 10

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Focus point selection or focus and recompose? – Photography for Beginners Series

A sharp image depends on much more than a fast shutter speed (although that is important). Focusing is a skill and there are lots of different ways you and your camera can focus on a subject. Today I am talking about two focus techniques and discussing which you should use. Focus point selection or focus and recompose?

If you really want to get the full benefit of these beginner sessions during which I am delivering the 101 on controlling your camera in manual mode then it is a great idea to go back to the start and make your way through the episodes one at a time. Then you will understand everything I am talking about here. I always find that those who take short cuts end up giving up because they have gaps in their knowledge so don’t let that happen to you.

Last time I went over autofocus modes and I mentioned that, because I shoot both moving and still subjects I just keep my camera set to continuous autofocus mode because I know that will allow me to achieve sharpness for both.

But, there are lots of photographers who would not be able to keep their camera set to continuous autofocus like this.

This is because they focus using a technique called ‘focus-and-recompose’.

If you have never heard of this then I am going to explain what it is using an example.

So let’s say you are taking a photograph of a friend. Let’s say you want to place them off to the side of the image slightly. More often than not an off-centre subject is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than a centred subject and I will be covering this in a lot more detail when we get to composition. And if you think about it, more often than not the subject you want to focus on will not be in the centre of the scene.

So let’s say your focus point is in the middle of your frame which is where it is by default when you buy your camera. Before I go on I want to make sure you all understand what your focus point is. The focal point of your image is where you have chosen to focus. Your camera’s focus point will be represented by a small circle, rectangle or square which lights up when you press your shutter button halfway. You may have lots of focal points which light up or you may just have one.

If you are taking a portrait of someone you would usually place your focal point on the nearest eye because it is important that the eyes are sharp. So let’s say you do just that. Your friend is now pretty much smack, bang in the middle of your photograph because of this.

But you don’t want them there. You want them slightly off to the side of your image. So what do you do?

Well those who use the ‘focus-and-recompose’ technique focus on their subject’s eyes by pressing their shutter button half-way down. They then keep their finger lightly pressed down on that shutter button and they move their cameras ever so slightly to place their subjects to the side of the frame. As long as they have not lifted their finger from the shutter button the focus will have stayed on their subject’s eyes even though their focal point is now pointing at something else. They then fully press down the shutter button to take the photograph.

As long as you keep your finger lightly pressed down on the shutter button your focus should stay where you want it whilst you recompose the scene.

This is called the ‘focus-and-recompose’ technique and loads of photographers use this very successfully.

There is nothing wrong with this technique. I used it for years before someone taught me a different and much more accurate way. But it does have its issues. Let me outline why I don’t recommend the focus-and-recompose technique;

  1. It requires a lot of practice. When you first start using this technique you will miss focus all the time. Pressing that shutter button lightly down is a skill in itself. All too often you will just press it all the way down and take a picture without meaning to. Or you will press it lightly down then start to move your subject over to the side but will lift your finger off by accident and your camera will then refocus on whatever your focal point is now pointing to. As you gain experience then, yes, you will get much more skilled at it and this will happen less and less.
  2. In Episode 3 I talked to you about the fact that you can use a wide aperture to emphasise your subject and throw your background and/or foreground out of focus? Well the focus-recompose technique is much less accurate when your aperture is wide and your depth of field is shallow. If you have quite a small section of your scene from front to back that is going to be in sharp focus then it is far too easy to move your focus point to a part of your scene that is actually outwith your sharp focus!
  3. Thirdly, focus-recompose only works well in single servo or one shot autofocus mode because you need to be able to just focus once then lock focus on your subject whilst you move your camera to recompose the scene.It won’t work well at all when your camera is in continuous autofocus mode. If you think about it a bit that makes sense. When you are in continuous autofocus your camera can refocus again and again as long as your finger is holding the shutter button halfway down. So as soon as you tried to recompose your shot your focus might shift to something else.N.B. You can get around this issue if you switch to back button focusing (which is awesome by the way). It just so happens I have a podcast episode all about it right here…
  4. And lastly, focusing and recomposing with fast moving subjects is pretty hit-and-miss. If you have a fast moving toddler running towards you and you want to place them off to the side of your frame, you are going to have to focus on them using your central focus point and then, at lightning speed, you will have to recompose that shot to place them off-centre and press the shutter button before they run out of the focal plane completely.

Now there are ways around some of these problems but they involve learning about even more buttons and settings on your camera and I think there are more than enough to contend with as it is! When I used the focus-recompose technique I used to miss focus all the time. As soon as I switched away from it my images were almost always sharp.

So what is the technique I use now?

I compose my scene just the way I want it to look. I place my subject in the scene where I want them to be and then I simply select the focus point nearest to them.

Yes, you have more than one focus point! Some of you will have lots and lots! You don’t have to use the focus point that is in the middle of your frame.

I have composed my image with the boys slightly right of centre then I have selected a focus point over the tallest boy.

To do this you need to make sure you are on the correct setting. With Nikon DSLRs you want to look for your autofocus area mode settings. You will have single point focus, dynamic area focus and auto area focus. You will be able to move your focus point in both single point focus and in dynamic area focus. With entry-level Canon DSLRs you want to look for your AF point selection settings. You will probably have manual selection and automatic selection. You will only be able to move your focal point in manual selection.

Depending on your camera and your knowledge of it you might need to check your manual or do a google search to find out where you control these settings and how to change them. Different cameras will have different names for these settings but what I can tell you is that you want the setting that allows you to select your focus point.

N.B. Some cameras have a focus lock button or switch. You need to make sure your focus lock is not on or you won’t be able to select different focus points. If you don’t know how to do this just look up focus lock in your manual.

So how do you select your focus point?

Well let’s start with Nikon. Again, I apologise if you are not shooting with Nikon or Canon but it would just be impossible to cover them all so instead I have a list of forums you can use to post a question relating to your specific brand and model of camera;


Canon Forum

Nikon Forum

Olympus Forum

Sony Forum

Fuji Forum

Pentax Forum

Panasonic Forum

So with Nikon you are looking for your Autofocus Area Mode settings. You should have single point, dynamic and auto. In auto mode your camera decides where to focus. You do not want this! So the options left are either single point area focus or dynamic area focus. The difference between these is that with single point focus you choose one precise point in your scene to be in sharp focus. With dynamic area focus you do the same but the areas around this will act as a backup in case your subject moves. I am usually in dynamic area focus mode because I like the comfort of this back up since I photograph fast moving little people a lot of the time!

So once in one of these modes Nikon users simply use their back arrow buttons to move their focal point around the scene. These arrow buttons are to the right of your screen. So all you need to do is press lightly down on your shutter button to see your focal point light up and then move it around using your arrows until it is over the point you wish to focus on. Easy!

Canon users – you will have the option of either automatic AF point selection which will allow your camera to choose your focal point for you or manual AF point selection which allows you to select it instead. Manual is what you need for this.

Once you are in this mode you will be able to move your focus point around your scene using either the dial or the arrow buttons to the right of your screen. If your focal point stops moving just simply press your AF point selection button again and it will start to move to your command again.

How do you know if it is moving?

You will see it moving both through your viewfinder and on your screen. I always use my viewfinder so that I don’t miss any action!

You might have all sorts of other options on your camera. Examples might be 3D tracking or face detection. There is no harm in trying them out, however, I am going to stick my neck out here and say that you are almost always better to keep control of where and how you want to focus. Let’s not overcomplicate things.

So now that I have told you how to set up your camera so that you can select your focus point, and indeed, how you actually go about doing that. I am now going to touch on the challenges you will encounter when you use this technique. Nothing is perfect and I am sure that is becoming clear as you progress!

  1. You might be limited with the number of focus points you have available to you. There may not be a focus point available to you in exactly the place you want it to be. However, there will be one nearby. To get round this what you can do is alter your composition a little so that your focus point is where you want it to be and then you can crop your image a little afterwards to get the exact composition you want.
  2. The next challenge is going to be learning how to move your focus point quickly and without getting into a muddle. I move mine so fast and without even thinking now but I certainly didn’t start out like that!

When you are beginning your journey into manual control you are going to get in a flap all the time. That is a promise. I remember tearing my hair out with everything I had to think about at once when taking photographs.

To take a photograph in manual mode there is so much to remember and consider and there are so many different things your fingers need to do. Unfortunately all of this is happening at the same time. Your brain is whizzing with a zillion different settings and your fingers are trying to keep up. I wish I could tell you that there is a way to avoid all of this. There isn’t. You have to go through this stage. You have to just accept it will take time before you are skilled. You have to have faith that as long as you keep practicing you will eventually reach a time when you are doing everything with hardly a second thought.

OR you can be lazy, give up and go back to the restraints of automatic shooting.

Remember when you got into a car for the first time. If you live in the UK it was most likely a manual shift car. I remember my first ever driving lesson. I remember thinking how could I be expected to check my mirrors, change gear, balance my clutch and gas pedals and steer all at the same time??!! I remember being amazed that people could talk or listen to the radio at the same time as driving. Fast forward a year and it was all second nature to me. I was driving places and hardly aware of what my hands and feet were doing.

It will be the same with your photography. If you stay in manual mode and keep practicing with the settings I have recommended then this will all become second nature very soon. So many people give up because it all just gets too much for them at the start. It is not because it is difficult, it is trying to coordinate everything between brain and fingers in such a short time period that really gets to them. If only they realised that if they just pushed through for a little while longer they would reach that place where it all just comes together. They will have taken a photograph without hardly a thought to button pressing and it will be the most fantastic feeling!

So I suppose the question is – are you willing to go through the tricky stage to get to the amazing stage? And if you are then you have to realise that this will only happen with lots and lots of practice.

TEA BREAK TASK

I want you to set up your camera so that you can select your focus point. So this will be dynamic area or single point for Nikon or manual selection for Canon.

If you have another brand then check your manual, google the question or post it to a forum.

Once you are all set I want you to practice composing a scene and then selecting the focus point closest to the part of the subject you want to focus on. Do it over and over to get some practice.

Is there more to achieving sharpness? You bet there is! If you are still struggling with out-of-focus images then check out my list of reasons for why this might be happening to you!

I would love to hear from you on this! Do you use this technique already? Are you a devout focus-and-recompose user? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on social media.

The post Focus point selection or focus and recompose? – Photography for Beginners Series – 10 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jul 08 2015

23mins

Play

Rank #4: Use this tip to find the best light for your portrait photography! Ep.39

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Use this tip to find the best light for your portrait photography!

Today I am going to give you a simple tip for how to find the best light for your portrait photography. It’s a quick and easy technique and I use it all the time with great success!

This post started out life as a podcast episode but if you prefer to read – fill your boots!

How light can make the face look is truly amazing to me. It can make the face look radiant, menacing, thoughtful, mysterious, forlorn, peaceful (the list goes on…)

Think about the lighting used in films. The cinematographer carefully uses light to reflect the mood of the scene. Think of a gritty, ominous scene from a thriller in which the lead character is finally being exposed as a psychotic killer. You can almost bet that the light will be low and cool in colour. It will most likely be hitting the scene from the sides to create lots of shadows and contrast on our character’s face making them look dangerous and terrifying.

https://fanart.tv/movie/11324/shutter-island/

Then switch that scene in your head to one from an upbeat teen movie where the two lead characters are enjoying a fun day out together. You can almost bet that the light used will be bright, warm and fresh. It will most likely be hitting our characters from the front so that our characters’ faces are evenly lit and glowing with happiness.

https://www.slashfilm.com/bring-it-on-sequel/

We actually just recently published a blog post about films to watch to improve your photography. You should definitely check it out!

As a people photographer I REALLY notice how the light falls on someone’s face. In fact, it is has become an obsessive habit that I just can’t switch off!

Sometimes I am so engrossed in the way someone’s face is lit that I lose track of what they are actually saying to me.

Or a complete stranger catches me staring at them across the room! Sometimes I am looking and just loving what the light is doing to their face but often I am looking and wishing I could turn them this way or that way to improve the light they are bathed in. It is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it has led me to an understanding of light and faces, and a curse because I can come across as rude if I don’t seem to be listening (or a stalker if I am staring at someone I don’t even know!!!)

If you photograph people I am going to stick my neck out here and tell you that I don’t think there is anything more important than understanding the impact of light on the human face.

Let me talk you through exactly the process I go through when I am trying to find a spot to photograph someone in.

Firstly I always talk to my subject about what I am doing. I ask for their patience whilst I find the perfect light. In my early days I used to feel so rushed at the beginning of a shoot. I felt that I couldn’t keep people hanging around and I couldn’t drag them all over a location until I found ‘my light’. All too often I ended up settling on a spot that was far from ideal. I would quickly realise after taking a few shots that the light wasn’t right but I would feel too embarrassed to say anything. So I would take a whole load of photographs knowing that they would disappoint me and I would have to do a lot of work to them in photoshop afterwards.

Nowadays I have learned my lesson – I will never do that again! I take my time to carefully find good light. I don’t think twice about asking my subjects to move to a different location. If it takes me 20-30 minutes to find a place to take photographs in, then so be it. As long as you are chatting along the way and the weather isn’t horrific then your subjects will not mind. They want to look good in these photographs!

When you take your time and talk to them about what you are doing they will have absolute trust in your skill and abilities. You will seem more confident in their eyes – not less!

Whenever I feel that I have found a nice bit of light I ask my subject to stand in it (if your subject is a young child – do this with an adult first and just let them play or run around). Now you might think you know exactly where the best light is coming from, you might think you know what colour it is and how strong it is.

But no matter how much you think you know, light can surprise you.

You might think your best light is coming from the edge of the woods when, in actual fact, the quality of light coming from the clearing in the trees behind your subject is far superior.

But how will you know? How can you be sure that you have found the best light? Here is what I do;

I ask my subject to stand in the light and I stand directly in front of them. I tell them that I am going to start walking slowly around them in a circle. I ask them to turn slowly on the spot so that they are always facing me.

As my subject turns I absolutely examine their face. I look at what the light is doing to them. I like to have a starting point and my starting point is to find even, front light for my subject. That simply means that the light is hitting them from the front. A good example of this is light from one window in a room or the light coming in from the edge of open shade or even the light from a setting sun.

I am not just looking for front light though. I am looking for good front light.

But how will you know it is good?

When good front light is hitting your subject from the front, their face will quite literally ‘light up’! Their skin will be light and bright and there will be minimal shadows on their face. It is often referred to as flat light because the lack of shadows has a flattening effect. Flat light can be quite boring in other genres of photography but it works for portraits if you want to beautify your subject. Let’s face it, we all want to appear even and flawless don’t we? This front light minimises wrinkles and blemishes and softens features. It is also super-simple for photographers to work with because the light hitting the face is consistent, making the exposure all over the face very similar and easy to find.

When good light is hitting your subject from the front you will also see their eyes light up. The skin around the eyes will not be in shadow and there will be twinkling catch lights in the iris. The importance of these catch lights in the eyes just can’t be overemphasised and I am going to be talking about that in more depth next week.

I want to be able to see a huge difference in the light on their face as they turn. If I turn my subject around and there is not a great deal of difference in the way their face is lit as we turn then I am going to move on. That is not great light to work with. It probably means the light is coming mainly from the top. This is usually because I am out in the open when the sun is very high in the sky or it is just a very cloudy day and there is no direction to the light. It is just coming from the sky and it is flat and dull. Or it might mean that I have found a spot in the shade that just isn’t getting enough light to give me that illuminating effect I am looking for.

When I see their face light up, bright and fresh with gorgeous catch lights in the eyes I know I have found my front light. I don’t stop though! I make sure I turn the whole 360 degrees with them because you just never know. There might be something even better. Make sure you do the full turn!

It goes without saying, I hope, that your background will have to be right. It’s no good finding beautiful front light to work with and then realizing that you have an ugly backdrop. That is a whole other episode though so stay tuned for my background episode coming up soon!

Finding that illuminating, flattering front light is my first step. Once I find that I always take a few shots using it. These are straightforward, evenly lit portraits. Some would call them ‘safe shots’ because they are easy to expose for, easy to capture and your subject will love them. They will be the best versions of themselves in that light. Fresh-faced, twinkly eyes, flawless skin – what’s not to love?

However, it certainly doesn’t stop there. Once you have found your light, keep your subject in it. I usually keep my subject facing that general direction with just subtle turns to each side. I then move around them looking for new angles.

I look for the shadows and I consider how strong they are and where they are falling. Some shadows are ugly, such as dark shadows falling under or all around someone’s eyes or a deep shadow under someone’s nose (making it look bigger). No one is going to thank you for capturing those. Some shadows engulf your subject’s whole face and their catch lights will disappear completely. Get out of that light asap!

However, some shadows are beautiful and add stunning contours to the face. If you are wondering how you will know which are ugly and which are beautiful, you simply have to look.

When I say look, I mean really look. It is truly amazing what you see when you really look.

A mistake that so many learner photographers make is to change their exposure as they move around their subject. They see that there are more shadows and they assume that they need to increase their exposure to compensate.

The thing is, your subject is in the same light, it is just you who has moved. If you have moved to capture more shadows then you need to make sure that these are evident in your photograph. Your exposure shouldn’t change.

This is something I am going to be talking you through in much more detail during Tuesday’s live webinar which is all about using the light from one window in three different ways. So if you would like to get a much deeper understanding of this concept then make sure you register. It is happening at 8pm (GMT) on Tuesday 8th March and it is entirely free to join.

This webinar has taken place now but you CAN watch the recording right here.

I really hope you can make it – I am so excited about it!

So there it is – turning with your subject – how simple is that? Next time you are doing some portraits, take time to do that turn and find that light. This simple tip will transform your people photography and will get you well on your way to a much better understanding of light.

I know that you won’t always be photographing people. If you are wondering if there is a tip for finding the light when you don’t have a person with you and you are photographing something else, the answer is, yes there is!

I am going to share it with you next week so please tune in!

The post Use this tip to find the best light for your portrait photography! Ep.39 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 04 2016

21mins

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Rank #5: How to use back button focus and why you should! – Ep.23

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In this episode I am going to be talking solely about back button focusing. I have had lots of questions about it and I wanted to dedicate a whole episode to it. I am going to explain to you what it is, why it is so fabulous and exactly how you do it for best results. As always, this is a podcast and is best consumed via the audio. But for those readers amongst you we have kindly provided text below!

But first, Happy New Year! It has been 2016 for 11 days already – which I am struggling to get my head around but I am so excited about what the year has in store for Tea Break Tog and absolutely thrilled to be back working and planning. I have so much content coming up for you guys and I hope you will join me for the ride.

2016 has had a pretty soggy start here. As you can tell from my accent I am Scottish and it has basically rained almost solidly for a month. I’m definitely affected by weather. If it is dark and dreary for too long I start to feel a bit like that too so together with the rest of the UK I am more than a little sick of it to be honest. However, when it came to choosing a Thursday Theme for the facebook group last week the obvious answer was of course, RAIN! And I’ll tell you there have been some great entries already – I am so impressed. Obviously we have members from all over the world so not everyone is suffering with wet, miserable weather like us poor Brits but that isn’t stopping everyone from getting involved. Something that members are noticing having been out photographing in the rain is that there are actually plenty of interesting image opportunities using reflections, condensation on windows, water droplets on foliage and umbrellas just to name a few. I’m really looking forward to seeing more over the course of the week! It makes all this rain a little more bearable!

But on with the subject of today’s show – back button focus!

I have only been using back button focus for a year or two but honestly, when I switched over, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to try it. It’s a game changer and I am going to convince you of that in this episode!

Maybe you have been using back button focus and you are just not getting to grips with it or you used it once and hated it. I am going to urge you to listen to this episode because it may be that there was just something you were missing. There are a few things you need to know to use it to great effect.

Let’s start with what it is. What does it mean to back button focus?

So if right now you do not use back button focus then that means you use your shutter button to focus. You frame your scene and then you bring it into focus by pressing lightly down on your shutter button and then to take the photograph you press your shutter button fully down. It is a two-step process but you are using one button right?

Well if you choose to use back button focus you will no longer be able to focus your scene with the shutter button. All that button will do is take your photograph for you. That is all. So you will expose and compose your scene the way you usually do and then to bring it all into sharp focus you will press a button on the back of your camera. Once you have achieved sharp focus, only then do you press the shutter button to take the photograph.

Now what I am not going to do today is teach you how to change your camera settings so that you can use back button focus. You guys are all using a hundred different camera models and that would be impossible to do. If you want to find out how to switch to back button focus on your particular camera just google it. Go to google and type in your make and model of camera followed by ‘back button focus’ and you will find out how to do this pretty quickly. If you don’t manage to then write a post in the facebook group and we will help you. If you are not a member already – get yourself on there.

So I am sure you can imagine when you first start focusing with the back button – you forget! Of course you do. It has become a habit to focus with the shutter button and you have to break that habit.

When I am showing learners how to back button focus I am amazed at how some of them want to give up after a few minutes. What I hear is ‘I’ll never get used to this’ or ‘This isn’t for me’. After a few minutes!!!

Naturally, this will take a bit of getting used to. Be patient!

But I assure you, a day of shooting will be all it takes! Just one day of shooting and you will not look back. Yes, there will be some frustrations when you realise that you have tried to focus with the shutter button and your image is blurry. But how many times do you think you are really going to do that before getting it right? Not many, let’s be honest. And remember, if you are looking through your viewfinder at your scene you are going to see that it isn’t in focus most of the time and that will be a trigger for you to remember that you need to use that back button.

What I recommend is that you do not try this for the first time when the images matter. That is a mistake. So if you are taking photographs for someone, whether it is a family shoot, a graduation or even a wedding – perhaps trying out back button focus for the first time is not the best idea!

What I suggest is that you go out with the sole purpose of learning and practicing back button focus.

If you make that the focus of the session (excuse the pun) then you are more likely to; 1. Remember to use the back button, and 2. Achieve success!

Now if you thought that was all there was to it you would be wrong. I talk to lots of photographers who are aware of back button focus but when they gave it a try they couldn’t make friends with it at all, even when they persevered. When I chat to them I quickly realise it is because they don’t actually fully understand how to use it. That is what I am going to teach you now. Because there’s no point making a change like this unless you actually know how to use it to achieve the best results possible right?

So let’s say you have researched how to switch your camera to back button focus and you have made the change. Now what? Firstly, with many cameras you are going to need to be in continuous autofocus mode to use back button focus accurately. So make sure you also switch your autofocus mode to ‘continuous’. Those of you using Canon – this will be called AI Servo.

Now you practice.

Practice with a person because you are going to want to practice with a still subject and a moving subject.

Let’s talk about back button focus with a still subject first.

Let’s say you have a willing subject and you place them in some window light to take a portrait.

Now most of us will place our subject slightly to the side of our frame rather than in the centre. (I am going to be talking about why photographers do this in detail on the podcast very soon but, for now, let’s just assume that is what most of us would do.)

There are two camps when it comes to how we focus. Some of us like to ‘focus and recompose’ and some of us like to move our focus point to the exact place in the scene we want to focus on. I will deal with each of these in turn.

If you are someone who focuses and recomposes (meaning you keep your focal point in the middle, focus on your subject then, keeping your finger half pressed down on the shutter button, you recompose the scene placing your subject off-centre) then you are going to love back button focus straight away! That is because, with back button focus you will be able to do all of that with much less hassle and more assurance of a sharp subject.

So let’s say your subject is on a chair near the window and all that gorgeous window light is illuminating their face. You have posed them and you are ready to take the shot. Those of you who focus and recompose will still keep your focus point in the centre as usual. Now the eyes are the most important part of this scene so you will place your focus point right over the eye of your subject. However, this time, instead of pressing halfway down with your shutter button to focus, you will press your back button once to focus. You don’t keep it pressed. Press and release. As soon as you release your focus is locked on the eye leaving you free to move your camera ever so slightly to place your subject off-centre. As long as you don’t press that back button again, your focus should remain locked on the eye. Now that is only if you have been very careful and made only soft, slight movements with your camera.

Remember, focusing and recomposing is a subtle affair.

You can’t move your camera backwards or forwards and expect that the eye will still be in focus. It is slight movements sideways or up and down that work here.

So let’s say you have made that subtle movement with your camera and your subject is now nicely off-centre and you are ready to take the photograph. You do not touch that back button again because you want focus to remain on the eye. Now you simply press the shutter button and the photograph will be taken. This is much easier than trying to keep your finger half pressed down on the shutter button isn’t it? I mean how easy is it to lift that shutter finger by accident? You will have a much higher success rate doing it this way and you won’t have to hold down any focus lock buttons either. Easy!

So that is for those of you who focus and recompose. If you are a regular listener you will know that I don’t actually recommend focusing and recomposing and I always encourage learners to select their focus point. This means you can move it to exactly the place in your scene that you want to be sharpest. If you would like to know more about how to do that – listen to episode 10.

So let’s say that is you. You would place and pose your subject and you would compose the frame placing them slightly off-centre. You would then move your focus point to their eye. Once you were happy with your composition and where you are focusing you would press your back button to focus the scene. Again, just press and release. Once happy that the scene looks sharp through your viewfinder, you are then free to take your photograph by pressing the shutter button.

For both camps – those who focus and recompose and those who select their focus point – as long as your shutter speed is fast enough and your technique is good then the eyes of your subject should be sharp. If they are not, try again. If you are still having trouble with sharpness then check out episode 11 to troubleshoot ‘out of focus’ images.

Now you might be thinking, ‘ok that sounds alright but nothing earth shattering. Nothing that really convinces me that back button focus is so much better than focusing with the shutter button.’

But just wait…

Because when back button focus really comes into it’s own is with a moving subject.

Honestly this will change everything for you if you have never used it before!

The first time back button focus really blew my mind was when I was capturing a family in the park. If the kids are young and light enough I often ask mum or dad to throw them up in the air a bit and I would capture the expressions and the connection. It is a shot I love.

However, up until then, I had always accepted that at least 50% of the images from a set like that would be out of focus. Simply because the child is being thrown so quickly and is moving up and down constantly. If I am taking shots in rapid fire and trying to focus with the shutter button I know that by the time I have pressed it to focus and then pressed it to take the shot that the child might have moved to a completely different part of the scene. It’s the same with ‘jumping on the bed’ shots. I love them but you need a great technique to get consistent sharp shots! A fast shutter speed will help and continuous autofocus will also help but even with both of those – you will still miss lots of shots if you focus with the shutter button in situations like these.

Now if I use back button focus and a fast shutter speed I can confidently take a continuous burst of frames of a dad throwing his toddler up in the air over and over again and I can rely on a high percentage of them being sharp.

Here is how it works;

So let’s say you now take your subject outdoors with you to a local park. Firstly you find an open area where they can run towards you. Let’s say you place them 100 metres in front of you and you ask them to wait until you say and then run towards you.

Now with someone running towards me I am going to be making sure my shutter speed is fast. I would probably want a minimum of 1/400 of a second but if I could get faster I would obviously be delighted.

If you are wondering how on earth you know what your exposure settings should be then you should definitely check out my free beginners course.

So let’s say you are all set. Once again, you compose your scene and place focus over your subject’s face this time (they are too far away for you to worry about the eyes). This time you are still going to focus the scene with your back button but you are going to keep it pressed down the whole time you are taking photographs.

So press down to focus, yell to your subject to start running towards you and keep that back button pressed whilst you take as many photographs as you want using the shutter button.

Here is the thing though, you have to keep that focus point trained on your subject. You can’t get lazy. Technique is so important. How you stand, how you hold your camera, how you balance and keep everything steady and smooth.

All of this cannot be overemphasised regardless of how you focus!

So as long as your shutter speed was fast enough and you have kept your focus point trained on your subject the whole time you should have lots of sharp images in that set. Because when you keep the back button pressed down like this and you are in continuous or AI servo mode, your camera will continuously refocus on your subject wherever they go as long as you keep the focus point trained on them.

But it is easy to keep your focus point trained on a moving subject that is moving towards you. You don’t really have to move, do you? That becomes a little trickier when moving subjects are moving across your scene.

But, with back button focus this also shouldn’t be a problem.

So this time, you ask your subject to start at one side of your scene and run across to the other side.

Now focusing and recomposing with fast moving subjects who are moving across your frame is really almost an impossible thing to do so I am going to assume that you are not even going to attempt to do that. You will either have to select your focus point or you will be forced to keep your subject in the centre of your frame which isn’t ideal. Let me elaborate…

Ideally in a shot like this you will have space in front of your subject to run into. So, for example, if your subject is running from left to right you would place them off-centre to the left and have space to the right for them to run into. If you can’t focus and recompose (because it will just be too tricky with your subject moving in this way) then you have no choice but to have them in the centre where your focus point is.

There is another reason to stop focusing and recomposing and start selecting your focus point! Remember, episode 10 is where to go for more on that.

Ok – back to back button focus! So this time you do the same as before. Place your subject and ask them not to start running until you say. Get your exposure right, get your composition right, make sure your shutter speed is nice and fast and then when you are ready – press the back button to focus your scene. This time you keep it pressed again and yell to your subject to start running across your scene.

As long as you keep that focus point trained on their face and as long as you keep that back button pressed down, your camera will continue to refocus again and again on your subject and when you look at the set of images at the end you will be stunned at how many are sharp.

That is, of course, assuming you paid attention to your technique.

So with that last one you have to be well practiced at moving your camera in a subtle, steady way to follow your subject. Big, jerky movements don’t work. It is all about the ‘smooth and slight’!

And that is how you use back button focus!

No more of this trying to hold your shutter button halfway down whilst you recompose or try to follow a moving subject – this is actually so difficult to do for extended periods of time and the chance of your finger slipping is high!

No more switching between single autofocus mode (AF-S or One Shot) and continuous autofocus mode (AF-C or AI Servo). With back button focus you simply keep your camera in continuous mode all the time because you are in control of this with the back button.

‘Press and release’ for stationary subjects (AF-S/One Shot) or ‘press and hold’ for moving subjects (AF-C/AI Servo).

I really do hope you will give it a try. More than that though, I hope that you persevere! Those who do reap the rewards of pin sharp images!

I have to warn you about entry-level Nikon DSLRs and back button focus. Your back button will have another function alongside focusing. When you are previewing your images on the screen and you want to protect one (so that you can’t delete it by accident), you can press the back button and it does this for you.

The reason I mention this is because if you try to use the back button to focus but you still happen to have an image preview on your screen then the back button will not focus – it will lock that image and make it ‘read-only’ instead. So just make sure you have no images on your screen when you are shooting.

Thank you to Sue Nixon in our facebook community for alerting me to this!

I would love to hear from you on this. Leave me a comment below telling me about your experiences with back button focus or asking any questions at all. I reply to them all. Alternatively, you can tweet me @TeaBreakTog and we can connect there instead and chat about BBF! Let me know your thoughts.

I will be back in a couple of days to start some chat about composition and how to get those scenes looking great in the camera. I hope you will join me!

The post How to use back button focus and why you should! – Ep.23 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 11 2016

26mins

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Rank #6: What does Aperture do? Photography for Beginners Series – 2

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What does Aperture do? Photography for Beginners Series

In this session I talk you through the details of aperture. We are going to nail this concept over the next two episodes I promise! Understanding aperture is a piece of cake and I will prove it to you. So what does aperture do?

Below is a summary of what I cover in the show;

  • One way of controlling the light entering your camera is to change the size of your aperture (the opening in your lens).
  • Aperture size is referred to in f-stops.
  • The wider the aperture, the smaller the f-number. The narrower the aperture, the bigger the f-number. E.g. f/1.8 is very wide and f/16 is very narrow (annoying I know!)

A visual always helps too…

  • Aperture size controls the amount of light entering, however, it also does something else that is very important. It controls your depth of field.
  • Depth of field is the distance of sharp focus you have in your image.
  • The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. The narrower the aperture, the deeper the depth of field.

And here are the lego images I mention on the podcast;

  • Many lifestyle portrait photographers like myself shoot a lot of portraits with a wide aperture so that we get a shallow depth of field. A sharp subject (person) and an out of focus background.

Like these…

Remember this is just a short summary of a much more detailed podcast episode. In Episode 3 we are sticking with aperture and fleshing it all out a little bit more.

TEA BREAK TASK

Switch your camera to manual mode (M). Find out how to change the aperture on your particular camera by looking up ‘aperture’ in your camera manual. Alternatively, type the question with your camera model into google.

Once you know how to change your aperture I want you to simply practice changing it. Open is wide and narrow it down paying close attention to the f-numbers and where you see them changing on your particular camera.

Remember if you have a comment or a question I would love to hear from you. Tweet me @TeaBreakTog or use the ‘Contact’ tab.

The post What does Aperture do? Photography for Beginners Series – 2 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Apr 29 2015

Play

Rank #7: Which Autofocus Mode should you use? Photography for Beginners Series – 9

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Which Autofocus Mode should you use? Photography for Beginners Series

Out of focus images are such a common problem amongst beginners. I know how frustrating it is to find that what could have been a great photograph is actually out of focus! Sometimes it can be as simple as having your camera set to the wrong autofocus mode. Let me outline for you in this episode what these are and which autofocus mode to use.

Below is what is covered in Episode 9 (but it’s better and much more detailed on the podcast ;-))

So many beginners tell me they have problems with out of focus subjects even when they think their shutter speed was fast enough. I am going to help you set your camera up in a way that will allow you to achieve a sharp subject most of the time.

So let’s get started with auto focus modes. Just as there are different metering modes there are also different auto focus modes. Yes really! Your camera can focus for you in different ways. That is what we are going to talk about today.

Again, very frustratingly, the camera manufacturers all have variations on the names they give to these focusing modes. I am concentrating on Nikon and Canon here but if you are shooting with a different brand please don’t worry. Just look up auto focus or focus mode in your manual and you will see the names assigned to yours. Alternatively you can check out one of these forums;

Canon Forum
Nikon Forum
Olympus Forum
Sony Forum
Fuji Forum
Pentax Forum
Panasonic Forum

Before I talk about auto focus modes I am going to talk about the simple act of focusing on a subject before taking a photograph. To focus your camera all you need to do is press your shutter button halfway down. Your shutter button being the button you take a photograph with. You need to have quite a light touch to do this. At the beginning you will probably take lots of photographs accidentally because you are pressing the button too hard. Just lightly down is all it takes to focus.

Ok so let’s discuss these different auto focus modes, what they mean and when you should use them.

AF-S or One Shot – Single Autofocus Mode

First up, on Nikon, we have AF-S (which stands for Auto Focus – Single) or One Shot if you are using Canon. It might be that you have a switch on your actual camera body to change between these auto focus modes but for many of you, you will have to go into the camera menu using your screen and change them there. Again, just check your manual or use the web if you are struggling to find it.

When you are set to AF-S or One Shot when you press your shutter button halfway your camera will focus once. Sometimes a focus light will flash on or a focus beep can be heard. This means focus has been achieved and you can take the photograph. In this mode, if focus can’t be achieved your camera won’t actually let you take a photograph.

However, let’s say you have pressed the shutter button halfway down and your camera has focused on your subject. Let’s also say your subject is a toddler. If that wriggly little toddler moves in between you pressing the shutter button half way and then pressing it all the way down to take the photograph then you will have missed focus!

When you are in AF-S or One Shot mode your camera and lens will focus once when you lightly press that shutter button. So you have to then take that photograph before your subject moves or you will have to focus all over again.

Obviously this isn’t much of a problem if you are taking photographs of stationary subjects. If there is no chance of anything moving then this auto focus mode will work perfectly for you.

AF-C or AI Servo – Continuous Autofocus Mode

Moving on to the next auto focus mode you have available to you and that is AF-C for Nikon users. This stands for Auto Focus – Continuous. For canon users this will be called AI Servo which stands for Artificial Intelligence. Servo just refers to the auto focusing mechanism.

AF-C or AI Servo is used for focusing on moving subjects. So let’s say you are photographing a toddler running towards you down a path. You would aim your focal point at the toddler’s face and you would lightly press your shutter button halfway down to focus. In this focus mode your camera will continuously refocus on your toddler’s face as they move towards you. But it will only do this for you as long as you keep that shutter button pressed halfway down and as long as you keep your camera trained on them. As soon as you lift your finger or move your camera suddenly then you have to start all over again.

AF-A or AI Focus – Automatic Autofocus Mode

Most of your cameras will have a third option which is AF-A which stands for Auto. Or for canon users AI Focus which again stands for Artificial Intelligence. When you are in this mode your camera will try to do some guess work for you. It will detect whether your subject is moving or stationary and it will switch between single or continuous focus depending on what is happening in your scene. This is actually the mode that is designed for beginners because you don’t have to remember to change your autofocus mode all the time depending on what you are shooting. The problem is – your camera will get this wrong sometimes!

I am all about giving you control so I am definitely not going to recommend you use this third option.

You don’t need your camera to guess for you. I am going to recommend that you select the autofocus mode that suits what you want to shoot. So if you are shooting stationary subjects – stick with AF-S or One Shot. If you shoot moving subjects – stick with AF-C or AI Servo.

What if your subjects are both still and moving? Well that is the story of my life! I photograph my subjects being still and then get them to move around all in the space of a minute or so. I also photograph kids – need I say more?! What I do is I keep my camera in AF-C mode almost all the time. Why? Because in that mode I can capture both still and moving subjects and achieve sharpness. Whereas in AF-S or One Shot mode – I will have a hard time focusing on moving subjects.

I am going to give you an example. I went out for a walk with the family recently and I took my camera along with me. On the course of that walk I took loads of photographs. Every now and then I would spy a spot that I wanted to pose the kids in. For these I would ask them to be still so I could get the shot I wanted. However, for the most part, I just captured what they were doing. Whether that was stirring puddle water with their sticks, running full speed along the path ahead of me, picking cherry blossoms and the rest. If I was a purist I would have switched between single and continuous focus depending on whether the kids were moving or not. But who actually remembers to do this every single time? And who can be bothered??? If you just stick to continuous focus then your camera will manage sharpness in any scenario whether your subject is moving or not. You just have to make sure that you keep your focal point trained on the subject and voila.

So why doesn’t everyone just keep their camera switched to continuous auto-focus all the time?

Well I will tell you. Different photographers have different techniques when it comes to focusing and one of those techniques will not work well with continuous auto-focus. However, it just so happens that I am going to help you to get to grips with a much more accurate and professional way of focusing on your subject (wherever they may be in the frame). That’s for next time though…

Before I finish up I am going to briefly touch on another auto-focusing option which is ‘Back Button Autofocus’. This is actually what I use to focus now but I certainly didn’t start using this method. I was introduced to it a couple of years ago and I have to say I do love it. It doesn’t quite belong in this beginner series but I have a podcast dedicated to back button focusing if you are interested in learning more about it and you can find it right here.

I will be back next time with more on focusing. It’s a pretty meaty subject and it is one that I get a lot of questions on. Seems to be a big issue for many of you beginners and I remember it was the one thing that used to frustrate me more than any other so I understand. That’s why I am fleshing this one out and chunking it up.

Next time we will be learning more about accurate focusing, particularly how you can focus on your subject wherever it is in your scene without focusing and recomposing. I hope you will join me!

For now, why not pop over and see what is going on in the facebook community. We would love to have you join in our conversations and share some of your images, successes and challenges. Get involved!

Julie

The post Which Autofocus Mode should you use? Photography for Beginners Series – 9 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jun 30 2015

17mins

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Rank #8: Focal length and Crop Factor – Photography for Beginners Series – 14

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Focal length and Crop Factor – Photography for Beginners Series

Today we are talking about what focal length actually means and I will be explaining as simply as possible what people mean when they talk about the ‘crop factor’ in relation to your lens focal length.

As always I am keeping it simple for you and we are not going to get heavy on the science at all.

So what does focal length mean?

Focal length is the distance between the lens and the camera sensor. Strictly speaking, it is the distance between the ‘optical centre’ of the lens and the camera sensor. The thing is though, does it matter what the ‘optical centre’ of a lens actually is? I really don’t think so and these things bore me rigid. I am also not going to discuss how focal length actually works. I am not scientific and I would do a very bad job of that. Feel free to look all of that up for some bedtime reading. I am going to move on from that real quick because what is MUCH more important for you to understand right now is how focal length affects what you see when you look through your lens. That is what we are going to focus on here.

A focal length of around 50mm is considered to be ‘standard’. Now what do I mean by standard? Well let’s imagine you are taking a portrait of your friend with a 50mm lens. When you look through a 50mm lens they will pretty much look the same distance away from you as they actually are and the angle of view will be pretty normal to your eyes.

Lenses with a shorter focal length than 50mm (and more specifically, lenses of 35mm or shorter) are considered ‘wide angle’. If you stand in the exact same spot and look through a wide angle lens at your friend again then they will appear to be further away from you than they actually are and you will see much more of the scene to either side of them.

Telephoto lenses are those with focal lengths longer than 50mm. So let’s say you are looking through a 200mm lens at your friend this time. Again you are still standing in the same spot. This time your friend will appear to be much closer to you than they actually are and there will be far less background visible than before.

I go into this in more detail here.

So let’s think about that 18-55mm kit lens that most beginners end up getting along with their first camera. We call that a zoom lens. A zoom lens is a lens which has various focal lengths and you can zoom in and out easily and quickly. You will see numbers etched on to your lens somewhere. On the kit lens that I am talking about the numbers might say 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6.

But what do these numbers even mean? When you first get into photography they just look confusing!

Well the first numbers – the millimetre numbers – refer to the focal length of the lens. With the kit lens it means that it starts with a focal length of 18mm but you can zoom in to a focal length of 55mm.

The second numbers are f/stops (which if you listened to episodes 2 and 3 you know ALL ABOUT by now). These numbers refer to the widest aperture your lens can achieve. Now with the 18-55mm kit lens the numbers say f/3.5-5.6. This means that when you are using your lens zoomed out to 18mm (wide angle) you will be able to open no wider than f/3.5. When you are zoomed in to 55mm you will not be able to open your aperture wider than f/5.6.

You might have less numbers on your lens. Yours might be a 50mm lens for example, and if so it might just say 50mm f/1.8. This simply means that the focal length of the lens is fixed at 50mm (it doesn’t zoom in and out) and the widest the aperture will open to is f/1.8. A lens which has a fixed focal length and doesn’t zoom in and out is called a ‘prime lens’ and we are going to talk more about zooms and primes in Episode 16 if that interests you.

So let’s go back to 50mm. I have just told you that when you look through a lens with a focal length of 50mm that everything should appear pretty standard – not closer or further away and the angle of view should be similar to what you actually see.

You might not like me when I tell you that is not always the case!

Because everything I have just said only applies to full frame cameras.

But what is a full frame? Well, full frame DSLRs have a much larger sensor than entry-level cameras or compact system cameras (CSC/mirrorless system). We call the sensor on these cameras a ‘cropped frame sensor’. A cropped sensor allows the camera to be much smaller and lighter and cheaper to manufacture. In the early days of digital all cameras had a cropped sensor because the cost of creating a full frame sensor was just enormous. Over time and with advances in technology full frame did become more feasible and eventually more affordable.

But even today full frame DSLRs are MUCH heavier and larger than cropped frame cameras and they cost MUCH more so it tends to be a purchase that is only made when someone starts to get serious about their photography.

Most of you listening to this podcast will be shooting with a cropped sensor. These are still great cameras. You just need to be aware of some focal length implications…

Because the sensor has been cropped it captures the light from a smaller area of your scene. So when you look through a 50mm lens using a camera with a cropped frame sensor you will not see as much of the scene as I would see if I looked through a 50mm lens on my camera which has a full frame sensor.

We call this the ‘crop factor’.

I do not want you to get hung up on this. There is loads of science behind it all but I believe all you need to know is this;

Because the sensor has been cropped, this means the scene it captures is cropped too. So when you look through a cropped sensor camera you will see less of the scene than someone using the same lens on a camera with a full frame sensor. The edges of the scene are cropped off for you so your scene will be more magnified. And that is basically what a cropped sensor does. It adds magnification to your lens. In fact it adds about one and a half times the focal length.

So, for example, if you put a 50mm lens on your cropped sensor camera it will behave like a 75mm lens. So it will actually behave like a telephoto lens. 50mm x 1.5 = 75mm

If you have a crop sensor camera and you really want a standard angle of view like you get with a 50mm focal length – as in you want to look through your lens and see pretty much what you see with your eyes – then you would need a focal length of 35mm. Because 35mm x 1.5 will give you that 50mm feel that you are looking for.

Why is this important?

Well it’s important that you know when you buy a lens for your cropped sensor camera that you are aware of the magnification that will be added to it. I wouldn’t want you to go and purchase a 50mm lens and wonder why on earth it is bringing your subject much closer when you were told that 50mm was a standard angle of view. It is important that you know about it but it certainly isn’t necessary to dwell on it in any way. Just accept it and move on (like I do).

I am going to let you mull that over before next time. Next time you will be learning which focal length is best to use in different scenarios. So for example which is the best focal length for portraits and which is best for landscape and why. I hope you tune in for that.

TEA BREAK TASK

For now I want to set you a very short task and that is simply to check the focal length of the lens (or lenses) you have. I want you to take note of whether they are zoom lenses or prime lenses and I want you to also take note of the widest aperture you are going to be able to achieve with them. This should all be etched on to the lens itself or, if not, on the manual or box it came in.

Until next time…

The post Focal length and Crop Factor – Photography for Beginners Series – 14 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Sep 15 2015

14mins

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Rank #9: Photographing Children Indoors – 7 tips to help you find the light! – Ep.26

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Photographing Children Indoors – How to Find the Light!

In today’s episode I am talking about finding the light when you are photographing children indoors. Where do you find the light? How do you know when you have found it? And how do you use it when you do find it? Yes, it’s better on the podcast but feel free to read it instead

This is definitely my arena. I love to photograph children above all other subjects. I love kids. I love how much fun I have with them, I love that they don’t have the hang-ups that us adults have and I love that they challenge me! All. The. Time. When you photograph children you have to be so much more than a good photographer. You have to understand kids and how their little minds work and you have to connect with them on their level and make them trust you. You could be, technically, the best photographer in the world but if you can’t relate to kids then you will not be able to create beautiful images of them.

A huge challenge when it comes to child photography is capturing them indoors. Outdoors you have lots more space to work with and much larger areas of good light to place them in. You can keep your distance and shoot lots of action. I am going to delve into the outdoor stuff at a later date though, because I know that the thing you all struggle with most when photographing kids is capturing them indoors.

Am I right?

The first and main issue here is ‘finding the light’ and that is what I am going to focus on in today’s episode!

I talk about this a lot during my beginners’ workshops and I talk about it a lot during my 1-2-1 sessions with learners. I mention it all the time in comments on the facebook group. In fact, it is safe to say that I talk about this constantly!

The reason I talk about ‘finding the light’ a lot is because it is EVERYTHING. It is the single most important thing you can do to give yourself the best chance of capturing a great image. You can select the most beautiful subject, the most captivating background, the correct exposure and superb composition. However, if you have chosen terrible light to shoot in then all of that will mean . . . nothing.

Sorry but it is true.

If you are a photographer skilled in using off-camera flash and you have all the necessary gear then you don’t have to worry too much about this. You can simply add your own beautiful light to any scene. But, if like me, you work with natural light then you don’t choose to do that. Available light has to be your first thought. And let’s face it, most learners do not have a good grasp of off-camera flash and they don’t have all the gear yet. They have to learn to work with the light that is already there.

Also, try adding lots of off-camera flash when working with toddlers in a small space. You will need a pint of vodka and a lie down in a darkened room after that shoot !

(N.B. I am going to be doing a show soon on why I believe every learner photographer should develop their natural light skills before going down the flash route – flash is amazing but you will get so more from it if you master natural light first)

Almost daily on social media I see learners posting images in photography groups and asking what went wrong. Why doesn’t the image look as sharp as it should? Why are the colours off? Why doesn’t it look the way I imagined in my head? They have made sure their shutter speed was fast enough, they have checked their focus settings, they used the right white balance setting and they just don’t understand what has gone wrong.

Just for the record, I love to see learners posting images and asking for advice. This is how I learned. If you do this – continue! If you don’t – you should! There are lots of people out there willing to help and share their wisdom with you. It’s a beautiful thing!

Join our facebook group to get involved in this with like-minded learners.

9 times out of 10, I can see immediately what has gone wrong for this person. 9 times out of 10 I can see that they simply chose poor light to shoot in. And this is particularly true when it comes to shooting indoors.

I have lost count of the number of times learners have told me they struggle shooting with natural light indoors. It is such a common headache and I can completely empathise with it. I remember fighting with this too. Missing countless moments indoors, becoming so frustrated by how terrible my images looked in the camera and not really understanding why because I felt my settings and shooting technique were right at the time.

Very demoralising indeed!

So I am going to share with you what I have learned since then and how it changed my indoor photography forever.

Just for the record, I am talking about natural light photography during the day in this episode. I’m not going to cover flash or artificial light here at all. That’s a whole other subject…

1. Choose your room carefully

Don’t simply choose the prettiest room or the brightest room. Often I go to clients’ homes to take their family portraits and they show me into their favourite room or their largest room or their brightest room – only to have me turn around and say I can’t use it! I always tell them ahead of the shoot that I will have to look around and that they might be surprised with the room I select. This is because I am looking first and foremost for good light.

But what does that even mean? How do you know if a room has good light or not?

Well, the light will change depending on the time of day and it will change depending on the weather, but, if you are shooting with natural light and not flash then it has to be window light. My favourite light source!

2. No direct sunlight shining in

I usually try to choose a room with no direct sunlight shining in. The minute you have sunlight shining into a room you give yourself more work. Why? Because you will have lots more contrast all over that room. If the sun is shining on light coloured items in the room then they are going to be very, very bright and distracting in your image. If your subject moves into the sunlight they are going to end up with harsh shadows across their face and squinting eyes. There is also quite a yellow tone to a sunlit room which can be quite unflattering to the skin.

That’s not to say you can’t create a beautiful image in a sunlit room but you definitely need to know what you are doing. You need to be skilled at controlling and manipulating that strong light. I am a big believer in learning and developing your knowledge and skills using light that is easier to work with first. If you do this you will build up to working with challenging light with much more confidence.

Also, let’s say you are working with children in that challenging light. This makes your job twice as difficult! Kids do their own thing, you have to work around them and be willing to adapt and sometimes even flip everything on its head. Add some tricky, strong light to that scenario and (well, do you remember that pint of vodka?)

So let’s think about a very sunny day. There is an abundance of light. You don’t want to look for the brightest room. It will actually be far too bright. You want to find a room with some nice, cool light coming in through a window. If there is no sunlight coming in then that means the light is being filtered by something. Perhaps by the clouds or trees or a building,

Trust me, filtered window light is beautiful!

If you just can’t find a room with no sunlight shining in then you can clip lots of layers of voile over the window to filter the sunlight. This works really well. Or if there is sun shining in one side of the room and not the other – block that side by closing the curtains or placing something over the window.

However, if it is a very overcast day then you are going to want to select the room with the most light entering which will likely be the room facing where the sun is (albeit behind all those clouds). The other rooms will likely be too dark on a day like this.

3. A room with windows on one wall only will be easier to work with

If the room you choose only has light entering from one side you will have much more control over that light. You know where it is coming from and you know where it is landing in the room. You can then use it to make your subject look wonderful! If you have light invading your scene from other angles then you will have to work much harder to find the best light for your subject. The light on their face will not be as flattering if it is coming from lots of different directions. Trust me on this.

Remember, this could be as simple as closing the curtains over on one window in the room or, if there aren’t any curtains, placing something against the window to block the light.

4. Note where the light is falling

So let’s say you have found your room. You have light entering from just one side and it is being filtered nicely. The light search doesn’t end there. There is so much more to it than that I’m afraid. You now have to look very carefully at where that light is falling in the room. There will be a pool of light near that window and you will be able to see where it starts to fall away.

When your subject is placed in that pool of light they (and you) will benefit from it! They have to stay in it though.

Move them away from that light and, bang, there goes your image.

So search for it. Take your time with it. To begin with you might struggle to really see it but the more practice you get the easier it will be for you to find this pool of magical light in a room. You will not be able to stop seeing it everywhere you go after that!

5. Find the direction the light is coming from

This is important because it will allow you to use the light in several different ways. To understand which direction the light is coming from just turn with your subject until their face lights up evenly. You will know the face is lit evenly when the shadows on it are at a minimum. The light is much the same on their cheeks, chin and forehead. They will also have beautiful catch lights in both eyes.

Catch lights are so unbelievably important if you are going to be creating a photograph in which the subject’s face plays a big role.

Remember those catch lights!

If there are no lights in your subject’s eyes they look dull and lifeless. Always look for them when you are photographing people.

So when your subject’s face is evenly lit with catch lights in both eyes – you have found your light. That is the direction it is coming from – right behind you, the photographer.

You can now use this light to illuminate your subject from the front, just as you are (taking care not to block the light hitting your subject). But you can also step around your subject and use the light from the side to create shadows and contrast. Or you can even move right around and shoot into the light to create backlit images. (I am going to be doing a lot surrounding the use of light from different directions on the facebook page over the coming weeks so make sure you pop by and ‘like’ the page so you can follow the hints and tips.)

6. Distance from the light source matters!

If your subject is too close to a bright window then they might end up with very bright highlights on their face and if they get too far away from that window light their face is going to darken and those all-important catch lights will disappear. So be aware of the distance you have to work with. Do this by studying your subject’s face. Depending on the room you could have quite a small area of ‘good light’.

Again, with practice you will see this quickly and easily.

7. Stop shooting in bad light!

If your subject moves away from the ‘good light’ you have taken great care to find, stop shooting. I am saving you so much frustration with this tip. If you are shooting with purpose (which means you are shooting to create photographs, not take snapshots) then you do not want to take a shot in bad light. You will be so disappointed with how it turns out.

Your subject might have the cutest expression on their face and they might be composed perfectly in the scene but there will be something that stops you from loving that photograph – and it will be the light it was captured in.

Of course there will be times when you just want to capture a moment and you don’t really care about technicalities. I feel like this every time my kids have birthday parties. The places they have them in always have terrible light and busy backgrounds. At times like this I don’t care about the light the kids are bathed in. I am there to capture memories not create a masterpiece! In situations like that I use my iPhone or if the light is too awful for the iPhone then I use my camera on a semi automatic setting like aperture priority and I just shoot.

But that is not what we are talking about here is it? We are talking about shooting with purpose to create. That is very different. In that case your mantra has to be;

‘good light or no shot’

Having said all of that, I will end on this;

Remember there are no rules in photography, just tips. Sometimes you will ignore all of them when you have a specific purpose or creation in your mind!

Feel free to do this whenever you bloody like! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you any different.

I know what you are thinking now. I do!

How do I get young children to stay in good light long enough for me to take their photographs!?

Yes, this struggle is real. Child photography is so difficult for this reason. If it was as simple as just switching to auto and shooting then everyone would be doing it!

There are loads of hints and tips I can share with you on this subject though and I am going to do just that on Wednesday!

How to get kids to stay in good light whilst shooting indoors! Join me!

We will also be talking about how to prepare for a shoot like this. It’s all in the prep!

For now, give the facebook page a like so that you can follow the videos I am going to share there over the coming weeks. I would love it if you tried some of the tips I am going to share both on the podcast and on social media and uploaded your own efforts!

The post Photographing Children Indoors – 7 tips to help you find the light! – Ep.26 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 18 2016

25mins

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Rank #10: What I wish I knew before I started photography! – 17

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What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Photography!

It’s better on the podcast but I know some of you peeps like to read so take your pick!

Today I am talking about the thing I wish I knew when I started learning photography!

As a teacher of photography I find myself more and more like a broken record. I am constantly harping on about the need for practice. But I truly believe it needs to be repeated over and over again. It is that important!

There is so much to learn in photography in general but especially when you are beginning. I find that many beginners underestimate what is involved. During my beginners workshops I can see the surprise in the faces in front of me when they realise that there is so much more to photography than composition and button-pressing.

If you have been listening to the podcast then I am sure there have been times that you have had to stop, rewind and listen again. That’s great. I would really encourage you to do that. That is something you can not do during a live workshop. However, that is not enough.

You could consume every bit of information available to you about photography and it still wouldn’t be enough.

Doing that just makes you knowledgeable about photography. It doesn’t make you a photographer.

You know where I am going with this don’t you?

When you first learn how to control your camera manually your head is literally BURSTING with all of the things you have to remember before even taking a shot;

Which ISO to start with

Which WB setting to select

Selecting the correct autofocus modes

Which metering mode to choose

Where to meter the light

Actually metering the light

Adjusting your exposure settings

Moving your focus point

Composing your scene

Holding your camera correctly and steadily

You have fingers all doing different things at the same time and a brain which has 40 tabs open at once.

It is really easy to give up at this point in your photography journey. It is much easier to just switch that camera back to one of the automatic modes and take a photograph. Most people don’t persevere and I will tell you why…

It is because every time they give it a try it has maybe been a few weeks or months since they last gave it a try. They have to look stuff up again because they have forgotten. They have to re-learn lots of things before they can even get started. It ends up being every bit as difficult as it was the last time they tried to practice.

And there is that word again, practice.

Think about when you start a new job. On that first day you are being shown a hundred different processes and learning countless new names. When you get home your head is bursting isn’t it? But you know that you will get there. You know that tomorrow it will be a little easier and by next month you will be almost completely comfortable with it all.

Now I want you to imagine that you only went to this new job once a month or even once every two months (I know it sounds like a perfect life!)

Leaving all that time between going to work at your new job would mean that every time you did go you would feel ‘new’. You would spend much of the time confused and trying to re-learn the processes you learned last time and you certainly wouldn’t remember everyone’s name. You would be stressed, tired and fed up at the end of every working day but, much worse than that, you would feel down on yourself. Like you weren’t good at what you were trying to do.

Unfortunately this was me when I first started learning photography. I used to leave months between practicing. Literally months! I took two steps backwards before I ever moved forwards because I was going over old ground every single time.

I WISH I could go back and do it all differently!

If you have children then I know that you will be familiar with this… How many times do you find yourself telling your children they need to practice something? My son is terrible for becoming really frustrated if he is not good at something straight away. He wants to give up before he even really gets started. We had this issue when he started learning piano and learning to play rugby. The thing is, when you are a child you have your parents insisting that you give something a proper go before deciding whether to give it up don’t you? They drive you to wherever you need to go and they encourage you to practice.

But who is doing that for you when you are an adult?

Unfortunately that responsibility falls on yourself as an adult. And we have exactly the same tendencies as children do. If something is proving difficult, and it is not actually essential, then most of us give up.

So you know what I am getting at here. With photography, practice is key. You will not become skilled without it. And when I say practice, I mean a lot of practice. Especially at the beginning before things start to become second nature.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking;

‘But Julie, I just don’t have enough time. Life is so busy!’

Tell me about it! Life is crazy busy for most of us isn’t it. Finding time for a hobby is nigh on impossible at times. I really do understand because I am just as guilty as the rest of you.

Now if you are reading this and you can’t identify with it then that’s wonderful. Maybe you are one of the few who got into photography, caught the bug immediately and you have rarely been without a camera in your hand since. You do exist and I applaud you. I really do. I love nothing more than to see the progress someone like that makes in such a short space of time.

Beginner photographers who practice constantly are in the minority and I know that for sure because I teach beginners photography and I keep in touch with many of them via my facebook community. The vast majority find it extremely hard to find the time to practice their photography. Those who do are streets ahead. Not because they are more skilled by the way – but because they simply have more experience!

Most of us spend our time putting work and family first. We forget about ourselves don’t we? The thing is, finding time to pursue something you are interested in is so important! It is good for the soul. People with interests beyond work and family are happier, more fulfilled people. It should be a priority for that exact reason.

If we are happier and more fulfilled then we will most likely be more productive at work and more engaged at home with the family.

So we all chatted about it in the facebook group last week. I asked everyone to complete the following sentence;

The hardest thing about learning photography is…

And the overwhelming response was ‘finding time’.

Now I knew that there were many photographers in the group who were very dedicated to their photography and had been from the very beginning so I asked them the very next day if they could share their secrets with the rest of us in the hope that maybe we could all learn from them.

The responses were so helpful that I thought they had to be shared via the podcast. So I am currently putting them all together in some kind of order and I will be sharing them with you in the next episode ‘Six ways to make time for your photography!’

I know this is a common issue so please do tune in if you are suffering from it! In the meantime come and join us in our extremely friendly facebook group and link up with like-minded learners.

And don’t forget if you haven’t signed up for my free crash course you can do that by visiting www.autotomanual.com

See you next time to solve these time issues which are plaguing us all!

Julie

The post What I wish I knew before I started photography! – 17 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Sep 24 2015

12mins

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Rank #11: 5 tips for sharp images at wide apertures – Ep.32

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5 tips for sharp images at wide apertures

Today is all about how to achieve sharp images at wide apertures, especially with people. I am going to give you my top tips as this is something I do – a lot!

Here we are in episode 32! I just want to take a moment to give a shout out to a couple of people. First is Dave Bird who sent my a really kind message on facebook yesterday after listening to episode 30 on blurry backgrounds. He then left me a lovely review on Stitcher. Much appreciated Dave – thank you so much for listening.

Also a big hello to Bill Hoggard and Jane Myers who also both got in touch yesterday via email to introduce themselves. They have both joined my Auto to Manual course and are rearing to get started. If you would like to join too – it’s totally free and you can find it at www.autotomanual.com!

In episode 30 I zoned right in on how to achieve that blurry background and/or foreground in your photography. I hope it helped you to understand that there is so much more to this than opening your aperture wide. Focal length and distance matter too – maybe more!

So let’s say you are taking photographs of kids and you are after that smooth, creamy background blur. You know the look I mean right? So you now know that to really achieve that particular look you need to place your subjects a good distance away from their background, move close in to them, select a slightly longer focal length (my favourite is 85mm) and open your aperture wide.

So you do all of that. You are ready to shoot but you are going to have a very shallow depth of field. Remember that simply means that you have a very small section of your scene, from front to back, that is going to be in sharp focus.

If you have such a small section of your scene that is going to be in sharp focus, how do you make sure that all the parts of this image you want to be sharp, will actually be sharp?

Surely the margin for error with this shooting style is huge?

Well not if you know what you are doing. I am going to share my top tips with you. You will soon be shooting wide open even with groups of people and confident about the sharpness of your final images. Just wait!

  1. Glass makes a difference

Have you heard photographers talk about ‘good glass’? What they are talking about is high quality lenses. Lenses are much more important than camera bodies when it comes to sharpness.

I hate to talk too much about expensive equipment because I know that most learners simply can’t justify spending four figures on a lens. However, it is important to mention that when it comes to creating sharp images at very wide apertures, the lens you use definitely makes a difference.

I have two 50mm lenses. I have my 50mm 1.8D which cost around £90 and my son and I use that with a Nikon D80. What a great little duo that is!

However, I also have the Nikon 50mm 1.4G which cost four times as much when I purchased it a few years back. I use that with my Nikon D700. The thing is, I rarely use that lens at f/1.4! I am more often shooting around f/2.

So why not just use my 50mm 1.8? Why do I even need the 1.4?

Because the 1.4 doesn’t just open wider, the glass and build quality is far superior to the 1.8 and you will notice a difference, especially when shooting at wide apertures.

I don’t tell you this to encourage you to go out and buy an expensive lens. Not at all! Your very reasonably priced nifty fifty lens will produce gorgeous, sharp images for you. But it will be softer at very wide apertures than it’s more expensive counterparts.

So if you want a very shallow depth of field with a cheaper lens but you still want your subject to be pin sharp – don’t open the lens to it’s widest aperture of f/1.8. Go for something a little bit narrower like f/2.2 to f/2.8 then use distance and focal length to blur out that background more.

Check out this episode for more on this

  1. Make sure those eyes are level for close-up shots

If you are taking a close-up headshot of one person with a very shallow depth of field you need to be super careful.

Why? Because if the sharp section of your scene from front to back is very thin then it is easy to end up with softness in your image – in places where you don’t want it!

Imagine this close-up shot if you can. You have purposefully given yourself a very shallow depth of field to work with so that you can achieve a blurry background which doesn’t distract from your subject. What if your subject was not quite looking at you straight on? Let’s say they have turned their head just slightly around to the side.

If you focus on the nearest eye (see number 4) it will be contained within your depth of field but the other may have moved out of it. That’s how shallow your area of sharp focus might be when you are taking a shot like this! That other eye won’t be in focus and in a close-up, that matters!

What is the solution? Make sure both eyes are level (easier said than done with kids, I know, but just take lots and you will manage one or two at least!)

If you increase your distance from your subject but keep the same settings, your depth of field increases too. You now have a much greater section of sharpness even though your aperture, focal length and all your other settings have remained the same. You now have the whole of your subject in the frame and you can be much less crazy about eyes being level because the entire body is probably now contained within your depth of field.

  1. Make sure people are level with each other in group shots

Someone taught me years ago that I should narrow down my aperture as I add more people to my group shots. They told me that I should match my aperture number to the number of people in my shot.

Please believe me when I tell you this is absolute nonsense.

There is no reason whatsoever why you can’t capture a group with a wide aperture if you want to. I do it all the time. As long as you know how to do it – you will manage to capture everyone in a nice sharp image.

But first of all, make sure you are using a wide aperture for a group shot for good reason. Don’t do it just because you can. There are times when a blurred out background can look great for groups, especially families. I do this all the time. However, there are also times when this just wouldn’t make sense. Treat every situation separately.

But let’s say you do want a blurry background in your group shot. Just like with the eyes in the close-up portrait, it is all about keeping your group in line with each other.

Depth of field is about ‘front to back’ not ‘side to side’. So, for example, if you are shooting with a very shallow depth of field and you have a family of four sitting on four different steps all at different distances from your camera – they won’t all be in focus. The person you focused on will be sharp but the others will be softer depending on how far back or forward they are from that person.

In theory, you could keep all of your settings the same and then move much further back. This would increase your depth of field and you might then get them all sharp. However, why bother? If you set up a group on a set of stairs and you want them all to be sharp – just narrow down your aperture. A shallow depth of field is not required!

I shoot family groups of 4, 5 and 6 at f/2 regularly. I get a little bit of distance so I can fit them all in and this gives me more than enough depth of field to contain them in as long as they are close and pretty level with each other. Opening my aperture like this also allows me to get a nice fast shutter speed meaning I can get them to interact and play and I am pretty confident that their movement want cause motion blur.

  1. Focus where it matters

If you are trying to focus and recompose with people and a very shallow depth of field – good luck to you. The best way to focus in these scenarios is with single point or dynamic focus (Nikon) or manual selection (Canon). Move your focus point to exactly where you want maximum sharpness.

This matters much more the closer you are to your subject. For a close-up portrait the sharpest part of that image should be the eyes. So move your focus point to the nearest eye. If they are level then it doesn’t matter which eye you choose. If your depth of field is very shallow and you focus on the nose – bang go those eyes and bang goes your portrait.

Try back button focusing too – if you persevere you won’t go back!

If you are shooting groups with a wide aperture and a shallow depth of field then don’t get yourself in too much of a tizz about where to focus. If you are closer then focus on the face of the middle person or where two middle people are touching. If you are further away you can worry even less. Just focus on someone!

  1. Good stance and grip is vital

How steady you hold that camera is so supremely important! I see beginners all the time wobbling their equipment about all over the place and then wondering why their image is blurry.

Think about your stance and your grip every single time you take a photograph and then eventually it will become second nature. Just pause for a second each time and examine your technique. Then pull it all in and take the shot.

Whilst you are honing this – take double shots. I used to do this all the time when I was shooting with a shallow depth of field. I took two shots. If I missed sharpness on the first I would often manage it on the second. Something to try if you are struggling!

Another tip is to find things to lean against. Anything you can anchor yourself with will help you keep that camera steady and those images sharp!

I hope these tips help you when shooting with a shallow depth of field. There are other things to consider when aiming for sharpness in general – you can read about them here.

For now I would love to hear your thoughts! How do you get on shooting with very wide apertures? Do you have any further tips?

Hit me up on twitter or Facebook and let me know!

The post 5 tips for sharp images at wide apertures – Ep.32 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 10 2016

20mins

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Rank #12: How to Expose in Manual Mode – Photography for Beginners Series – 7

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How to Expose in Manual Mode

This session is all about exposing in manual mode. This is where it all starts to come together – you are going to love this one! It is better on the podcast but, look, I have doubled up so you can read it below if you prefer!

So you have completed the exposure triangle! You know how you allow light to enter your camera using your aperture and shutter speed and you know that if it is still not enough then you can maximize the light using your ISO setting. It is awesome to get this far so quickly. I meet so many photographers who don’t properly understand these basics and because of this they really struggle to progress. You are off to a great start already!

Your three exposure settings (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) are all crucial in capturing a well exposed image. Well exposed simply meaning not too bright and not too dark. Just right for you – the way you want it to look!

Let’s say you have taken a shot in manual mode and you are absolutely delighted with the exposure. It is just right! But now let’s say you are going to take another shot of the same thing in the same light but you want more depth of field in this next one. You want more of your scene from front to back to be in sharp focus. So to get more depth of field you now know that you need to narrow down your aperture.

But remember you were delighted with your exposure last time weren’t you?

So what have you gone and done when you have narrowed down your aperture? You have decreased the light you are exposing your sensor to. You have changed your exposure. If you take this shot now your image will be darker than last time. It will be underexposed.

But that’s ok!

Because you now know that you can make up for the light you lost via your aperture by adjusting your shutter speed or your ISO. You can either slow down your shutter speed or raise your ISO to balance that light again.

Don’t worry at all if that is pickling your brain. This stuff only becomes crystal clear with time and practice. Honestly!

But how do you know what your settings should be in the first place? How do you get to that perfect exposure? I know that is what you will be thinking now. Maybe you understand how to choose your aperture but how on earth will you know which shutter speed and ISO to choose to match it? Surely it is easier to let your camera help you out with this in auto or semi auto shooting modes right?

We have already very briefly touched on this previously but now we are going to fall head first into it. We are going to start tackling ‘metering’. Because that is how you know what your settings should be.

You need to meter the light.

I think even the term ‘metering the light’ is off-putting isn’t it? It sounds incredibly technical and alien but actually it is just measuring. And measuring the light with a light meter is as easy as measuring how long something is with a ruler or how much something weighs with a kitchen scale. We all do both of these things practically without thinking because we are well practiced and it is the same with measuring the light. It just takes practice and then it becomes second nature.

So how do you do it? How do you measure the light?

Well your camera has an in-built light meter. When you are in manual mode and you look through your viewfinder (that is where your eye looks into your camera) you will see along the bottom of your scene something called your ‘exposure line’. Now this will look different depending on the camera you have. If you have a DSLR it is likely that it will be green numbers on a black background. However some other cameras will show the exposure settings on the scene itself either along the bottom or up and down the side. It doesn’t matter where it is as long as you can see it.

Your exposure line will typically display (in this order) your shutter speed, your aperture and then your light meter. Your light meter will look like a measurement gauge. It will have a negative sign at one side and a positive sign at the other side. In the middle will be a zero. You might have some other numbers like negative 1 and negative 2 and positive 1 and positive 2.

So let’s say you, like me, prefer to select your aperture first because you like to be in control of your depth of field. So let’s say you have selected a nice wide aperture of f/2.

Let’s also say that you are taking a photograph on a bright afternoon outdoors. So you know that you won’t need your sensor to be at all sensitive to the light so you have selected a low ISO of 100.

How do you know which shutter speed to select? This is when your light meter comes into play. You use your light meter to measure the light and it will help you find the correct shutter speed to expose this image.

Guess what?

When your light meter gives you a positive reading – you are overexposed. So you will have to let less light in using your shutter speed. You will have to speed it up.

When your light meter gives you a negative reading – you are underexposed. So you will have to let more light in using your shutter speed. You will have to slow it down.

When your light meter gives you a zero reading – you are exposed. Bingo. Your shutter speed is correct for this image.

It is that simple to read a light meter. Get the light meter to zero and voila – take the photograph.

But what do you use to meter the light?

Well, annoyingly, it depends on your camera. Most cameras meter the light using the centre of your frame. So wherever you place the centre of your frame is where your camera will measure the light from. However, and this is important, Some cameras (including Nikon) will measure the light using your focus point (you know the circle or the square that lights up when you focus on your subject?) You aim it at your subject and your camera will measure the light from there.

You might be thinking, what is the difference? My focus point is in the centre of my frame anyway! But actually you have a choice of focus points you can use and you can select one that is not in the middle. Don’t worry we will be covering this when we learn about focusing! For now, just know that your focus point doesn’t always have to be in the middle and if you have a camera that meters using your focus point then you must be aware of where you focus point actually is. That sounds confusing but it won’t be for long, honest!

So your light meter reading will tell you whether you are over, under or just right. All you need to do is adjust that third setting until your light meter gives you a zero reading.

But here is the thing!

You NEED to make sure you know what you want to expose for!

That might not make much sense right now but let me give you an example.

I want you to imagine that you are taking a photograph of me in a fairly bright room and I am being lit by lots of light from a nearby window. Let’s say that I am wearing a red tshirt and I am standing in front of a white wall. Now I have very dark hair and very pale skin. Curse of being Scottish!

So let’s imagine this scene and let’s think about it in terms of light. Remember when you capture an image with your camera your camera is recording the reflected light bouncing from everything in your scene.

Let’s now think about the light that is bouncing from my very dark hair. There is not much light coming from that hair is there. In fact hardly any!

If you try to measure the light being reflected from my dark hair with your light meter your camera is going to be saying, ‘Whoa that is dark! I am going to need a LOT of that light to be able to expose this.’ (yes in my world, cameras talk). So it is going to give you a light reading based on that.

But if you let in the right amount of light to expose for my hair – what do you think my pale face is going to look like in that photograph?

It is much brighter and lighter than my hair. By exposing for my hair you have gone and let far too much light in for my face. It will be far too bright. It will probably be what we photographers call, ‘blown out’. That means it is so bright the details of it are gone or hardly visible.

Now let’s think about the light that is bouncing from that white wall. It’s going to be a lot isn’t it? If you try to measure the light being reflected from that white wall with your light meter, your camera is going to be saying, ‘whoa – happy days! That is so bright – I will hardly need any of that light to expose this.’ So it is going to give you a light reading based on that.

But if you let in the right amount of light to expose for the white wall – what do you think my face is going to look like?

My face is pale but it is nowhere near the colour of that white wall! By exposing for the wall you have not let in nearly enough light to expose my face. It will be far too dark.

There are different amounts of light being reflected from everything in this scene. My face, my hair, my t-shirt and the wall all have different exposures. But even my face will have lots of different exposures! There might be a shadow from my nose across my cheek and there might be a very bright patch on my forehead where the light is hitting it directly.

Look at these images of my son. I metered the light from a different place each time. Which looks most accurate to you?

So you see. Within one scene you can have loads and loads of different exposures. Meter from something dark in your scene and you will get one reading, meter from something lighter and you will get another, completely different, reading!

THIS is where people fall down. They don’t understand the importance of metering from the correct part of your scene. They understand how to measure the light but they don’t understand where to measure it from.

You see, it is not possible to expose for everything in your scene. Unless everything in your scene is exactly the same colour and texture and has exactly the same amount of light falling on it! And that would be a pretty boring picture wouldn’t it?

When you are working with natural light you pretty much have to choose which part of your scene to expose correctly and you have to accept that the rest will be either over or underexposed. Usually it will just be by a little bit and barely noticeable. Sometimes, especially with bright sky in your image, it will be very noticeable. Have you ever taken a picture and even though the sky is beautiful and blue in real life, it just looks bright white in your photograph – yeah that!

So there you have it. You can’t expose for everything in your scene perfectly. You have to choose!

But there are lots of things you can do to expose the other parts of your image better. You can illuminate darker parts of your image with your own lights (flash). You can use a filter on your lens to darken down the lighter parts of your image or you can use editing software to make changes to your image after it has been taken. But none of that changes the fact that you still have to choose what to expose for.

What you decide to expose for in your scene will depend on what you are taking a photograph of.

If, like me, you are taking photographs of people using only natural light then you are almost always going to be taking meter readings from the face. That is what I am doing 99% of the time. It is very important that the exposure is good on your subject’s face.

However, if, for example, you are a landscape photographer then where and how you meter the light will be different. We will go into that a little more in the next session.

Now before I leave you with a Tea Break Task I want to tell you that there is MORE than enough information in this session and the next one for you to go off and start your journey into metering the light. More than enough! I just wish I had access to it all 8 years ago! There is a lot to learn and with practice you will become very proficient.

There is more to metering the light than I can give you here though. There are aspects to manual exposure that just require practical experience for you to truly get to grips with them. Now if you are listening to this and you are impatient to become skilled in manual photography and you want to accelerate your journey then you might be interested in my Manual Exposure Masterclass. It is not free like this course. It costs $47US (around £30). Before you think ‘oh here we go – she wants to sell me something!’ Let me say again that the masterclass is only for you if you want a ‘fast track’ to mastering manual exposure. It won’t be right for everyone. It consists of nine practical sessions in manual exposure. They are short 20-30 minute lessons which start basic and build up to teaching you how to manually expose even tricky scenes with great skill.

The masterclass is practical so you do need to set aside time for each session and you do need your camera with you for them. The sessions are still audio though so you can actually be doing the tasks along with me. You can play, pause and rewind and do everything at your own pace but I coach you through each step – right into your ear. I am not going to go all sleazy salesy on you I promise. If you would like more information about the masterclass you can click right here.

TEA BREAK TASK

I want you to, whenever you have a moment with your camera, switch it into manual mode. I want you to look through your viewfinder if you have one. If you don’t just use your screen as usual. I want you to find your exposure line and, in particular, your light meter.

This is where you can see almost all the information you need to expose your image. If you get into the habit of using your exposure line instead of your menu screen then you will stop missing all those shots. It is much quicker to keep looking at your scene whilst changing your settings instead of dropping your camera down in order to change them using your menu. It takes practice, yes, but doesn’t everything?

So once you find your light meter I want you to simply adjust your exposure settings one at a time and watch your light meter reading change. Watch it move from positive to negative and back again as you adjust the light hitting your sensor.

As always I would love to hear from you. Connect with me on facebook, twitter or via the contact page. We would also love to have you join our facebook community. You can request to join using the link below!

The post How to Expose in Manual Mode – Photography for Beginners Series – 7 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jun 03 2015

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Rank #13: Why is a wide aperture better? Photography for Beginners Series – 3

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Why is a wide aperture better? Photography for Beginners Series

In Series 1, Episode 3 of Tea Break Tog I help you to explore the world of ‘apertures’ in a some more detail. You will learn that exposure is just a big balancing act and that being able to open your aperture wide is a pretty awesome thing!

Here’s a summary;

  • Even on a bright, sunny day you have to open your aperture wide if you want a shallow depth of field.
  • If you open your aperture wide in bright conditions you will need to compensate by making sure you leave it open for a very short amount of time and that your camera is not sensitive to the light (fast shutter speed and low ISO)
  • Once you are correctly exposed you can’t change one setting (aperture, shutter speed or ISO) without changing at least one of the others.
  • If you take a photograph of a group of people and they are arranged behind and in front of each other then you will need a narrower aperture to make sure they are all in focus.
  • Why is a wide aperture better? Being able to open your aperture wide also allows you to shoot well in low light because you can let in more light.
  • We call lenses which open wide ‘fast lenses’ because they allow you to have a faster shutter speed. A faster shutter speed usually means a sharper image.
  • Not all lenses can open to the same widths. Some beginner zoom lenses can only open to f/3.5 – f/5.6. When you are zoomed out you can open to f/3.5 but when you are zoomed in you can only open to f/5.6.
  • The wider a lens opens the more expensive it is.

If you NEED a wide aperture in your life but don’t want to break the bank you can purchase a basic 50mm lens which will open to f/1.8.

Download my eBook to find out more about which camera and lens to purchase if you are a beginner.

Next time we will be getting to grips with shutter speed!

TEA BREAK TASK

Search online for images which have different depths of field. Some with a shallow depth of field and some with a deep depth of field. Look at them and think about how the image would have changed if it had been taken with a narrower or wider aperture. Using aperture wisely helps you to tell stories with your images!

If you are enjoying the podcast I would absolutely love it if you could take the time to leave a review on iTunes.

The post Why is a wide aperture better? Photography for Beginners Series – 3 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

May 06 2015

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Rank #14: When to use aperture priority – 20

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When to Use Aperture Priority

Today I am talking about those times when manual exposure is not just difficult but almost impossible to manage. It is times like these I use aperture priority mode. Why? It’s all in the podcast episode! (But you can read instead if you prefer…)

First of all – some exciting news!

It has been far too long between episodes so first of all I want to apologise for the big gap. However, there is a very good reason and it is because I have been furiously working away on a really awesome course I will be releasing this month! It is a masterclass in manual exposure. A masterclass in metering the light. The course will be mainly audio like the podcasts but there will be one big difference. With the podcast you can listen on the go and the podcast will stay that way. I love that you can learn photography whilst going about your day to day life. I know how busy you are and being able to fit this into your life is vital because it means you are more likely to continue pursuing it.

The audio masterclass course is different though.

When you listen to a masterclass session you will only be focusing on that and nothing else. You will also need your camera because these sessions are practical. I WISH they had existed when I was learning. I am basically taking you to a level of understanding that took me YEARS to get to. No exaggeration.

I am really excited about this (can you tell?). There is honestly nothing out there like it. You will find a zillion photography video courses and ebook courses online but I wanted to create something for you that would be as close to having a tutor with you whilst you are practicing as possible. The power of having someone coach you straight into your ears can’t really be overemphasised. You can actually be out and about doing these exercises along with me without having the distraction of having to watch or read something first. I will talk you through every task in great detail as if I was right there with you. You can pause and rewind as many times as you like and just take it at your own pace.

I will be releasing the audio course this month to my email list first before anyone else.

There will be a special introductory price for you guys if you are on that list and it will be a bargain, believe me! So if you are not on my email list then make sure you get yourself there. It’s a great place to be anyway because I only ever send you valuable and helpful photography lessons and tips and I never spam you with rubbish. If you already receive emails from me then that means you are already on my email list and you don’t need to do anything. If you haven’t subscribed to my email list then you can do that by clicking right here. Once you are on there you will be among the first to hear the details of the audio masterclass and you will get access to the special introductory price.

Ok let’s talk about Aperture Priority!

In episode 19 which was way too long ago I asked if you were a meterholic. I asked if you were metering like crazy every time you were in manual mode and I hopefully helped you to understand that you don’t need to do that.

However, I talked about situations when you might find manual really hard to work with. The situations I was referring to were those in which the light is changing ALL THE TIME!

When the light is changing all the time or you are having to move into different light all the time then manual exposure can be pretty exhausting. If you are having to work quickly in conditions like that then manual exposure can be almost impossible!

You don’t want to be missing crucial moments because you are constantly having to change up your settings.

I’d say 90% of the time I am working in full manual mode. You know how I feel about this by now. I truly think you can never reach a deep understanding of photography and your camera without understanding how to take manual control.

But the other 10% of the time I am in Aperture Priority mode. I personally don’t use any other shooting modes but that has more to do with what I prefer to shoot. On my Nikon, Aperture Priority is the ‘A’ setting. On Canons it is the ‘Av’ setting. It will be something similar for you.

Now I am going to be honest here, if I was a wedding photographer I would probably use this setting a lot more! I am lucky in that I can choose a location and I can direct my clients into good light and get them to stay there.

A wedding photographer doesn’t have that luxury. A wedding photographer has to work with what they are given. Yes, when they are doing the posed shots they can take a little more time and direct their subjects into good light but what about the rest of the time?

For example, maybe the wedding starts in a church and they are taking candid photographs of the guests. Some are bathed in beautiful light from a nearby window and some might be far away from a window and lit by candlelight! After the ceremony the photographer might be going from indoors to outdoors and back again. Whilst outdoors some of the action might take place in the sun and some might take place in the shade but this action might happen within the space of a few seconds! When indoors it is the same situation. Some action might happen by a window and two seconds later something worth shooting happens in a dark corner of the room. Some die-hards will still insist on being in manual mode throughout a wedding but lots of wedding photographers do shoot weddings in Aperture Priority mode. If not the whole day, then at least parts of it.

So what happens in aperture priority mode?

It is semi-automatic. When you switch to Aperture Priority you manually set your aperture. Your camera will then select the shutter speed to match it depending on the light being reflected from your scene. You still need to select your ISO setting and white balance setting when you are in Aperture Priority mode. Every time the light from your scene changes – your shutter speed will automatically change to suit but your aperture will remain the same unless you physically change it.

Let me give you an example of a time I switched my camera over to Aperture Priority. Last year I was on holiday in Turkey with my husband, Johnny, and our two kids, Carla and Joe. Carla was 4 at the time and loved the kids club. She was in a show one evening dressed as an angel and, of course, I wanted to grab some shots. She was parading around a big amphitheatre with the other kids and it was adorable! Now it was early evening and the sun hadn’t set yet so half the stage was bathed in evening sunlight and half in shadow. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there were also different coloured lights shining down on various parts of it. It was an exposure nightmare and the kids were moving quite fast in and out of all the different light.

If I was in manual mode I would have spent 80% of the time trying to expose. And by the time I had – Carla would have already moved into different light which would require a different exposure!

I just wanted to capture as many images as possible without missing any of the action. However I definitely wanted control of my aperture so that I could control my depth of field. I quickly switched over to Aperture Priority mode and I just got shooting!

So why didn’t I just use full Auto?

In full auto mode your camera will not allow your ISO to get very high at all. Instead, if your camera thinks light is getting low, it will just pop your flash and nuke everything in front of you with bright, white light. I can’t begin to tell you how much I dislike the light that comes from that flash but that is for another day. Also – how does your camera know how much depth of field you want in your image?

Let’s use my example with Carla in the show on holiday. I was in the audience and she was on the stage. In full auto my camera would have fired the flash whenever she was in low light. But the light from the flash wouldn’t even have reached her! It just would have blinded the people in front of me and the scene I was trying to capture on the stage would probably still be dark. Also my camera in auto might have selected f/5.6 when actually what I wanted was a wide aperture so that I could focus on Carla and blur out the busy foreground of audience heads!

Choosing aperture priority mode allowed me to do that. So I chose an aperture of f/1.4 and I allowed my camera to choose the best shutter speed depending on the light she was bathed in at the time. And the shutter speed changed – A LOT! If I had to manually change the shutter speed myself then I would have had a nightmare taking those photographs!

That sounds great doesn’t it? Much easier than manual mode! But is it as straightforward as that?

Unfortunately not.

There are some things you have to watch out for and some buttons you have to acquaint yourself with if you want to use Aperture Priority mode well.

But not to worry – I am going tell you what they all are! In the next episode (which is tomorrow!) I will tell you everything you need to know in order to get the most out of Aperture Priority mode.

And don’t forget to get yourself added to my VIP list if you want to be first to know about this manual exposure masterclass launching this month. Only those on my email list will get access to the special introductory (bargain!) price.

I hope you will join me tomorrow!

The post When to use aperture priority – 20 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Nov 05 2015

15mins

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Rank #15: What is Shutter Speed? Photography for Beginners Series – 4

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What is Shutter Speed? Photography for Beginners Series

Now that you ‘get’ aperture – let’s try to make sense of another element of exposure. What is shutter speed in photography? In episode 4 I am going to break this down for you with lots of examples until that lightbulb appears above your head. Shutter speed simplicity…

Here’s a summary of what is included in this shutter speed episode but remember there is so much more in the podcast so give it a listen if you can!

  • Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second and seconds. 1000 means 1/1000 of a second, 4 means ¼ of a second. You will know that you have moved into seconds when quotation marks appear after your number. E.g. 2” means 2 seconds.
  • If your shutter speed is slower than anything that is moving in your scene then you will capture the reflected light from that moving person or thing and you will get ‘motion blur’ in your image.
  • In photography, one second is a very long time! A lot of movement can happen in one second.
  • How fast you need your shutter to be depends on what you are taking a photograph of. It depends how fast things in your scene are moving and how sharp you want them to be.
  • I have minimum shutter speeds which I am not willing to go below in certain scenarios. With people who are not moving much I will rarely let my shutter speed get slower than 1/125 of a second. With people who are moving about more (very small children or families playing) then I don’t allow my shutter speed to get slower than 1/250 of a second. This is a minimum. I would much rather it was faster. The faster the better for my style of photography.
  • If you have chosen your aperture and your ISO then you will not know what your shutter speed should be until you have ‘metered’ the light. You don’t just guess and hope for the best. We will be learning how to meter the light in future episodes.
  • Even if nothing in your scene is moving – YOU move. There is only so long you can stay still. There is a handy rule to help you understand how slow your shutter speed can get before you will make your camera shake (just by breathing!) If your lens has a focal length of 50mm you don’t want to get slower than 1/50 of a second. If your lens is 200mm you don’t want to get slower than 1/200 of a second and so on… To find out the focal length of your lens just look on the side of it or on the box it came in.
  • Motion blur can be intentional and really cool! Some waterfall images make use of a slow shutter speed to convey the movement and power of the water. This is called a ‘long exposure’.

Image from Shutterstock

  • Because the photographer can’t stay still for very long they will often have to use a tripod to rest their camera on and they control the shutter remotely so they don’t move the camera.

Next week we will be delving in to the world of ISO and completing our exposure triangle!

TEA BREAK TASK

Make sure you are in manual mode on your camera (there should be an ‘M’ setting) and find out how to change your shutter speed. Every camera is different so there would be no point in me telling you how to do this. You should be able to look up ‘shutter speed’ in your manual or you could even type the question into Google using your specific camera brand and model. Once you know how to change it simply practice doing this. Speed it up as fast as it will go and then slow it down as slow as it will go (remember you will know you have reached seconds when the quotation marks appear!)

Thank you so much for your very kind reviews so far! If you are enjoying the podcast and have a moment then I would be so grateful if you could leave a review on iTunes. Alternatively reach out to me on Twitter @TeaBreakTog.

The post What is Shutter Speed? Photography for Beginners Series – 4 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

May 13 2015

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Rank #16: 8 ways to make time for your photography – 18

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8 Ways to Make Time for your Photography

Today I am talking time! There just isn’t enough of it is there? But I am going to discuss 8 ways you can make time for your photography. And yes, I mean ‘make time’ not ‘find time’.

Firstly, an apology, because I said I would have this episode out on Friday but it took way longer to pull together than I expected. But better late than never right?

So I explained last time that in our facebook group we were discussing one of the main challenges surrounding learning photography. Namely – finding the time!

I asked the members who did manage to devote lots of time to their photography to share with the rest of us how they did this. I knew they were no less busy than us so why was it they were able to make time and we weren’t? There were some great responses and I have pulled them all together into 8 hints and tips. I hope they help you – I know they are going to help me!

1.Write down your goals and display them

Now this first one is my own contribution and I think it belongs at the number one spot because nothing great can be achieved without doing this first.

Deciding on goals, writing them down and displaying them is such a powerful thing! It is amazing how just the act of writing a goal down makes you much more likely to achieve it. I make goals all the time but it is the ones I write down and display which I have success with. The ones you think about which stay in your head – they get forgotten about don’t they?

But you must start with why. Before you write a single goal down I would encourage you to first of all think about, then write down WHY you want to learn photography. Knowing why will be a huge driving force for you. Maybe you want to start a photography business in the future or maybe you want to ignite a passion for something beyond work and family life. Whatever it is – write it down!

Now when I mention goals, I am talking about two types of goals. The first is the long term, big picture goal. Something like, ‘I want to become an award winning landscape photographer’ (I mean you’ve got to dream big right?) That one is important and it should go at the top but it doesn’t stop there. That goal on its own is not helpful. In fact it is likely to just seem completely unreachable and ‘pie in the sky’ and when something seems that way it is easy to give up on. So no, that is just the beginning. After that you MUST break it down.

What are you going to do each month to achieve that goal. Start with the first month and write down just one or two mini goals to get you started. Make sure they are extremely specific and extremely realistic. Because if they are too adventurous you probably won’t achieve them and then you will feel like a failure. Not a good start really is it?

Let’s say you are a beginner. In month one you might write down;

1. I will learn about and understand the exposure triangle

2. I will learn how to adjust my aperture, shutter speed and ISO

That is so do-able. If you manage more – great! You will feel good about yourself and will be in a good frame of mind to continue.

So honestly, take ten minutes just to give yourself some goals to strive for. There is power in this I swear!

2. Take your camera everywhere.

Rich Proctor and Lorraine Burke both said they take their cameras everywhere with them. They have made it a habit. By doing this they know they always have their camera to hand if they see something worth capturing and it encourages them to actively look for something worth capturing. Rich stated that since doing this he now realises that opportunities for great photos are everywhere if he just looks for them.

And if you are wondering how long it takes to form a habit I am reliably informed (by google) that it is about two months! So, in theory, if you try to remember to take your camera everywhere for two months it will then become part of what you do before leaving the house.

Now you might be thinking that your camera is a bit big and heavy to take with you all the time. I get it. I have a little CSC, a Fuji x-pro, and I take it out and about with me instead of my DSLR because it weighs far less! But most entry-level DSLRs are not nearly so heavy. They are reasonably portable, especially if you have a good bag…

Jen Scott is another member of the Tea Break Tog facebook community who takes her camera everywhere. She said this became much easier when she spent her birthday money on a very beautiful Kelly Moore camera bag which doubles as a handbag. This is a great way to make sure your camera accompanies you everywhere. I mean tell me a lady who leaves the house without her handbag? And Gents don’t despair – Kelly Moore makes bags for you too

3. Start a Project 365

The very same Jen Scott is one of a few members of the group who are undertaking a Project 365 which is taking a photograph every single day for a full year. Jen, Gemma Cathcart, Jenni Reid, Nic Sharp, Vicki White all started in January and have been supporting and encouraging each other every step of the way.

This might seem like a big undertaking and I have to be honest. I have attempted it twice and failed miserably. I think I might be better placed now to try again because I am not so obsessed with perfection these days. I am more than willing to take iPhone photos and accept major imperfections for the sake of capturing a special moment. I am seriously considering trying again next month – I will keep you posted!

So why should you do a Project 365? Practice is of course the obvious reason. You will progress so quickly doing this. But this is also the perfect way to build photography into your everyday life. Hopefully by the time the project was over you might not be taking a photo every day but you will certainly be taking more than you did before. It also encourages you to look for a photograph in even the simplest of things. The kids watching tv, or just the way a water droplet is sitting on a leaf.

If you want to know more about Project 365 visit www.365project.org to find out more.

4. Mix your photography with something you do every day

Dave Simpson responded saying he gets up really early and mixes his photography with something he does every day anyway which is walking his dog. Such a simple but effective way of making sure you get regular practice.

Michael Carver said that he mixes his photography with interacting with his children. He takes his camera along on all their walks and outings and he is even teaching them both bits and pieces along the way. Being with our children is something we all make time for so involving photography in that time just makes sense doesn’t it?

5. Weed out your time sucks!

Caron Sandeman responded to my question by saying that she hasn’t watched tv since taking up photography. She has found a passion and tv is not so appealing any more.

Now don’t get defensive here ok? But if you were completely honest with yourself, how many hours per week do you reckon you waste on ‘time sucks’? When I say time sucks I mean activities which are totally unproductive. They are a waste of time and give you nothing of benefit.

The one that sticks out here is browsing through social media. Ok so here and there you might come across a really inspirational blog post or something else worthwhile but for the most part you are looking at photographs of people’s dinner or other mundane nonsense. I hate getting sucked into my facebook feed. I always feel so disgusted with myself afterwards for spending so much time on that when I could have done something more worthwhile.

You could say that watching tv is a time suck. Yes I know it is what we do to relax. It requires no brain power and it is appealing when we are tired. I get it. I am not saying that you should stop watching tv and spend that time developing your photography. I am just saying that you could reduce the time spent watching tv.

Have a think about the things you do each day which are eating your time with no real benefits. Write them down or keep a diary. Some of that time could go towards your photography!

6. Ignore the housework and start saying NO!

I love that Janis Hedley’s response to the question of time was that she doesn’t have time for photography but she makes time. She says her grass is a little longer and her ironing pile is a little taller but this has allowed her to spend more time on her passion.

Let’s face it, no one will die if you don’t vacuum the carpets or wash the car today. Make a note of all the things you could get away with doing less of. I’m not saying you should live in squalor but there is a happy medium to be struck I am sure!

On a similar note – who could you delegate tasks to? Think of all the tasks you do which don’t need to be done by you. Who could help you with them? And then just ask! This can be both at work and at home!

Also – start saying no to stuff! You don’t need to say yes every time someone asks you to do something. Be selfish sometimes. Say no! It won’t kill you I promise.

You’ll be amazed how much time you can salvage here.

7. Value the activity

How valuable is photography to you? Really think about this for a minute. Another point that Michael Carver made was that when we say we don’t have time for something we are really saying that we don’t value the activity.

This was quite poignant for me and I will tell you why. I have been trying to get this podcast up and running for a while now. It has been really quite difficult. I have a full time photography business with employees. I have two young children. We are renovating our house. I kept finding myself saying that I just didn’t have the time to do a podcast that week. Other stuff was being put to the top of the list. Then I went to the Content Marketing Academy in Edinburgh earlier this month (an amazing event by the way) and the keynote speaker, Marcus Sheridan, said exactly what Michael said. He said if we kept saying that we didn’t have time to podcast or we didn’t have time to blog then what we were really saying was that we did not value them. They weren’t important enough.

That was a big moment for me. It was hard to accept in some ways. It is easy to get defensive when someone says something like that to you. But the truth is that when we place a high value on something we WILL find time for it. I reflected on how important the podcast was to me and decided that I valued it very highly indeed. I have been making time for it ever since and long may that continue.

So have a think – how much do you value photography?

8. Reflect on your success

So important! God we are all so bad at this aren’t we? No matter what – you have to stay positive! Any practice is good practice. If you are annoyed with yourself for not practicing enough or not progressing as much as you would like then you will demotivate yourself. You will stop making time for your photography because your photography is making you feel bad. Why would you spend your precious time on something that makes you feel bad?

Keep reflecting on how far you’ve come. It is often said that the only photographer you should compare yourself to is yourself, one year ago. If you are better than you were then be proud! When you feel proud of yourself you feel really great – and feeling really great means you are going to make more and more time for that thing that made you feel that way. Win win!

“The only photographer you should compare yourself to is yourself, one year ago.”

Reflect on and delight in your progress! My daughter, Carla, clearly does!

So there you have it. The Tea Break Togs’ guide to making time for your photography! Do you have any other tips? If you do then we would love to hear them! Get in touch on twitter or join the facebook community and get involved in some conversation.

I will be back in a few days talking about metering the light again. If you have been practicing this skill then please do tune in because I am going to tackle a big issue!

Julie

The post 8 ways to make time for your photography – 18 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Sep 26 2015

20mins

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Rank #17: Natural Light Child Photography – 7 tips to create natural moments indoors – Ep. 29

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Natural Light Child Photography – 7 tips to create natural moments indoors

Today I am talking about natural light child photography indoors when you only have a small area of good light to work in. How do you get them to stay there for any length of time so that you can take great photographs of them?

So I have talked at length now about how to find the light indoors before you take photographs of kids. I hope I convinced you of how important that is. I also gave you lots of other tips about how to prepare in advance of taking photographs of children so that when you do press that shutter button, your chances of success are much higher.

I then ended up going ‘off on one’ about why making the effort to do all of this will mean the difference between you taking a snapshot and creating a photograph. I explained that a good lifestyle photographer chooses the light and the setting and then they create the moments that end up looking so natural.

So let’s say you have found the light indoors and you have done all the preparation I recommended to you last week. Now how on earth do you create those moments? And how do you keep young children in one place long enough to even attempt to create anything?!

Fear not. That’s what I am going to help you with today!

I am focusing on young children in this episode because they are the most challenging. If you used these tips with older kids you would get some funny looks – I will help you with that age group another time!

Before we get started on this I want to mention a message I received last week. Angela sent me a message after episode 27. She said;

“Julie thanks so much for your advice about preparing for taking photographs of children inside. I always have trouble with this and your pointers were great.

You mentioned making sure to get exposure settings before starting but you didn’t mention what the exposure settings should be. Can you tell me what your settings would be for a shoot like this? For example I regularly take photographs of my kids in my living room in front of a double patio door.

What settings should I be using for this?”

Angela is not alone in asking questions like this. It happens a lot. I used to ask questions like this too.

The problem is though, this question is impossible to answer.

Your exposure settings will absolutely depend on the light you have available to you on that particular day. The weather and the time of day will affect this dramatically.

Your exposure settings will also depend on how many children you are taking photographs of, how old they are and how close together they are. So, for example, if you are taking photographs of one child who is around 5 years old and can stay relatively still for long enough for you to press the shutter button then you might open your aperture wide for a shallow depth of field so you can blur out the background and really zone in on their eyes. However, if you have a much younger subject who is zooming about or you have two young children to photograph and they are not close together or in line with each other then a wide aperture is just going to mean that one or both are going to out of focus.

So you see, the settings you need in your room at the time of day you are shooting with your subjects and your camera will determine your settings.

And they will be completely different from my settings in my scenario.

If all this ‘settings’ stuff is completely confusing to you, don’t worry, just sign up for my FREE ‘Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course and you will be clued-up in ten days flat – honestly!

So whilst I cannot tell you what your exposure settings should be, what I can do Angela, is give you some pointers (I hope that makes up for it!)

Firstly, when my subjects are young children I aim for a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 sec. Of course faster would be better but that is the minimum I would accept if I didn’t have quite as much light as I would like. Young kids move fast and you don’t want motion blur.

To make sure your shutter speed is fast enough you might need to increase your ISO. Don’t be scared to do that. If you have chosen good light indoors then you should not have much of a problem with digital noise. Crank up that ISO in order to speed up that shutter.

I typically select a wide aperture indoors to let in lots of light and also to blur out the distractions which are often everywhere inside. If I have just one subject then I will probably select f/1.4 –f/2 (depending on their age and how still they can be). If I am capturing more than one child together in a photograph then I would opt for f/2.8 and give myself a little more depth of field to play with.

N.B. Shooting with very wide apertures like f/1.4 needs practice. You will have varied results with sharpness because your depth of field is so very shallow. By all means practice with these wide apertures but perhaps not if the images really matter…

To finish my advice regarding settings I would also be shooting this using continuous autofocus mode (AF-C or AI Servo) and back button focus. Great settings for fast-moving kids!

Once you have settled on your exposure settings (do all of this with an adult if you can – kids get bored!) remember they shouldn’t really change much at all if you are working in the same light throughout your shoot. Ignore your light meter and just shoot. Don’t be a ‘meterholic’!

So let me help you with making those moments happen! When you are working with kids you have to be so much more than a good photographer. You have to able to handle children too. Now that doesn’t mean you need to be an entertainer. Not at all. In fact, I think getting kids too hyper when you are trying to take their photographs can quickly turn into a nightmare…

But you do need to understand kids at a basic level at least.

I believe that taking photographs of your own children is actually much more difficult in some ways than taking photographs of other people’s children. Parents are constantly telling me how patient I am with their kids whilst I am photographing them. The truth is, it is easy to be patient and fun and silly with kids when they are not your own! Kids behave so much better for other people. Our own kids know which buttons to press don’t they? They know what winds us up and they also don’t feel that they have to pretend with us either.

All of the tips I am going to give you can be used with your own children and with other people’s. The trick, always, is to keep it fun and light-hearted. This is much easier with other people’s kids but might require some restraint with your own children. There may be things you would normally check them on which you are forced to let go for the sake of a bit more shooting time.

Make sure you are not tired and grumpy before you start and remember there is always tomorrow if things don’t go according to plan…

I am going to give you my 7 tips for natural light child photography indoors.

  1. Set up an activity in great light

Candid images of kids can be so beautiful. But candid is difficult indoors where you might only have a small area of ‘good light’. You want those cute expressions to happen in that beautiful light and not in a dark corner, right?

So set something fun up for them to do. This might be a teddy bears’ tea party on the carpet, jumping on the bed, a lego challenge, drawing, a puppet show or simply some beloved books to read. The possibilities are endless. If there is something fun to do in that gorgeous light and you are all ready to shoot then you are going to get some decent time to capture a pretty set of images before your little subject gets bored.

Every now and again say their name or make a funny noise and get them to look up at you if you want some eye contact.

Don’t forget to capture the little details like close-ups of busy little hands or bare feet and move around the whole scene to capture it from every angle. You are not a tree – use your feet!

  1. Find new ways to sit

Young kids wriggle when they are asked to sit still. They just do. Asking children to sit still so that you can create a photograph is like asking them to sleep through until 11am because you have a hangover – it’s not going to happen!

If you are dealing with a wriggler you can get creative with your seating. Don’t ask me why but if you allow kids to sit differently on a seat than normal then you will get longer before they want to get up.

A good technique is to turn chairs and sofas around so that children are leaning over the back of them instead. When they have something to lean on like this they stay still for longer and they look far more relaxed and comfortable than they do just sitting normally on a chair. For a start, they don’t have to worry about what to do with their hands because they are using them to lean on and sometimes this will mean standing on furniture, which they are probably not usually allowed to do!

You will probably manage a few eye-contact shots by doing this but, remember, the shots with no eye-contact can be equally lovely so capture them too.

  1. Employ a furry assistant

Most young kids have a favourite soft toy or lots of favourite soft toys. This can be a great way of getting their cooperation. I often ask them to go and get their toy and introduce me. We have a chat about them and I usually take a few photographs of them together. Then I ask if they would like the toy to take some photographs of them.

I then joke about a little and get the toy to do some daft stuff with the camera before simply holding the toy between me and my camera and taking some frames. More often than not I get some gorgeous portraits doing this. Your subject will love seeing their favourite toy being the ‘photographer’.

Be careful with this tip – I have had it backfire on me spectacularly! Some kids are pretty protective when it comes to ‘special toys’ and will not want to part with them once they are brought into the scene.

You will know your own child when it comes to this. If your subjects are not your children, chat to their parents and ask them what their thoughts are on this.

  1. Invent a camera dweller or a get a lens buddy!

I used to have a crochet lens buddy who slipped over the end of my lens. He was an owl called Olly. I left him in the park years ago and ever since Olly got lost I have been telling young children that I have a parrot in my camera called Olly. I turned him into a parrot for colour reasons!

When I start the shoot I tell my little subjects about the parrot who lives inside my camera. I tell them his name is Olly and he is very shy but that they might see his colourful feathers when they are looking into my camera. If you have looked into a camera lens then you will have seen the different colour reflections you can often see in the glass. I tell young children that is Olly.

This works best with kids under 8 but I have had kids up to the age of 10 accept this completely and utterly!

Every time they see a new colour I ask them to yell out the colour they saw. I then tell them which part of Olly that was. There is always great hilarity when Olly shows them his bottom!

I actually think my imaginary Olly works better than my lens buddy, Olly, but both are great ways to get kids attention and add some fun.

  1. Swap out your serious head for a while

I know you are a very sensible grown-up and all that, but . . .

Be prepared to sing crap songs at the top of your voice, make fart noises with your mouth and generally dance about and act completely daft. This is easier when it is just you and the kids but often you will have another adult with you. You won’t have time to be embarrassed. Just shed a few years for the shoot and encourage your assistant to do the same.

You will love it really!

If you are taking photographs of your own children then you know already what makes them laugh or smile. There will be a favourite song or a noise that just gets them every time. There are lots of funny phone apps with rude or silly noises so get them installed and have them ready to use.

This one is popular in my house!

If they are not your kids then it can be hard to get a genuine laugh quickly. They might be a bit shy with you (or they just don’t think you are funny!). Don’t waste lots of shooting time trying to find something that makes them laugh – use a parent or an older sibling! Ask your helper to stand as close as possible to you or directly behind you and make the kids laugh. Tell them to be as daft as they like and promise not to look round so they don’t get embarrassed. They will get a fabulous smile or laugh much easier and quicker than you would.

  1. Peek-a-boo

I know, it is such a cliché. But it works like a dream most of the time!

Firstly, your subjects can play peek-a-boo. You can ask them to crouch behind the back of a chair or crawl behind a table or you can just give them something to hide their face with. Make sure you are all set up with your focus point aimed at where their little face is going to appear. Kids can’t help but smile and laugh when they hide and then reappear. Be ready and you will be treated to some real joyful expressions!

You can also ask your helper to play peek-a-boo behind you. This is especially effective with really little ones. So ask your assistant to hide right behind you then pop out to the left, the right or above your head with crazy looks on their face and making silly noises.

  1. Know when to stop

I just can’t emphasise this enough.

If all is going swimmingly and then your mini model starts getting really fed up or upset, don’t try to get them through it. Just stop.

Stopping might mean just taking a break and setting up a new activity or scene while the kids play, grab a snack or just chill out for a while.

But sometimes, stopping might mean quitting. Over. Finished. Done. If you persevere you will not be capturing ‘keeper’ images. You can see it in a kid’s face when they are not enjoying themselves. Unlike us adults they are really, really bad at hiding it! Eyes fill with tears, cheeks get red, drool and snot make a quick appearance and the general mood of the room hits the floor quicker than your shutter speed.

It’s just not worth the stress.

If you make sure to stop when everyone is still having fun, they will be more than willing to let you take photographs again some other time. If you end up with fraught, tearful models you can guarantee that the next time you try to take their photograph will be less than easy.

So those are my 7 tips for creating natural looking images when photographing children indoors. What about you? Do you have any secrets you can share? What works for you? Leave me a comment under episode 29 at teabreaktog.com, visit the Facebook page and join the conversation or connect with me on twitter @TeaBreakTog!

Don’t forget, if you are still struggling to get your head around manual mode then subscribe to my ‘Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course. Nowhere will you learn more in such little time.

Over in the Facebook group this week we have an ‘iPhoneography’ theme going on. There are some absolutely superb images being shared. Please do join us if you are a Facebook user. What a great group of like-minded learners, honestly. You can find us here. Someone will approve your request as soon as possible and we will very much look forward to welcoming you into the fold!

I will be back in a couple of days with another episode in my ‘Composition’ series. I am going to be talking about using foreground in your images. It’s something I certainly love to do. So join me for that. It will definitely get those creative juices flowing and you will start seeing foreground opportunities everywhere you go!

Remember I want to hear from you on today’s topic. If you have any ideas for keeping kids entertained whilst creating magical photography moments indoors then let me know!

The post Natural Light Child Photography – 7 tips to create natural moments indoors – Ep. 29 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 27 2016

30mins

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Rank #18: Aperture Priority Tips – 21

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6 Aperture Priority Tips

I believe in shooting in manual mode. I believe it is THE single best way to reach a deep understanding of photography and of your camera. I also know that it is easy if someone takes the time to teach you in the right way. That is my mission – to show you how exciting, rewarding and simple manual photography actually is.

However, I don’t shoot in manual mode all of the time. Sometimes there is nothing for it but to select a semi-automatic shooting mode. In episode 20, I explained when I think you should use aperture priority and I outlined how it works.

I only ever shoot in this mode when light is extremely variable and I want to work fast. The settings I use and the way I use them changes when I switch to aperture priority mode from manual mode.

I thought it would be helpful if I shared some of my tips for shooting in aperture priority mode. I hope you find them useful! They are all in the podcast episode which will allow you to learn on the move but feel free to read them instead if that is your preference!

1. Switch to Matrix Metering Mode

If you have listened to my metering episodes then you will know that I am a big advocate of spot metering the light in manual mode. This allows you to get the exact exposure you need to achieve the look that you want.

However, on the occasions when I switch over to aperture priority mode I also switch my metering mode. I change it to ‘Matrix’ metering mode (evaluative, pattern, multi).

So why do I do this? Well let’s think it through.

In manual shooting mode I meter the light from the part of my scene I want to expose for. I am a people photographer so, for me, that is generally the lightest part of my subject’s face. I get my settings exactly the way I want them and once I am happy with them, they don’t change unless I decide to change them. So I am then free to compose and focus and my exposure settings won’t change. If light suddenly drops then I just slow down my shutter to let more light in and if light suddenly increases I do the opposite. This works great for me 90% of the time. However, occasionally I find myself shooting in a situation where the light is changing CONSTANTLY and it is a nightmare to keep up (like my daughter’s show on holiday which I described yesterday).

In aperture priority mode your shutter speed will change on its own depending on the light being reflected from your scene and it will change often if your light is changing. And of course, that is the whole point of this shooting mode. It is a godsend in changeable light. However, if you use spot metering mode when you are shooting with aperture priority then you have to remember that the point on your frame which your camera meters from is going to be aimed at all sorts of colours and textures whilst you are shooting. And these colours and textures will also affect your exposure. You could end up with drastically different looking exposures within just a few seconds of shooting simply because that metering point was aimed at different parts of the same scene. When you look at your images they will probably be all over the place in terms of exposure.

Really matrix is better when you use aperture priority mode. With matrix metering your camera assesses the light from the whole scene and give you an exposure based on this. When you are having to shoot fast in changeable light – this is what you want.

2.Make Use of Exposure Compensation

For all the reasons above you are not going to nail your exposure every time when you use aperture priority mode mixed with matrix metering. If there are a lot of dark colours or shadows in your scene your camera might end up overexposing your image and the opposite is also true if there is a lot of brightness in your scene.

That is why you have a setting on your camera called ‘exposure compensation’. The button will look similar to this one below;

When you press and hold down the exposure compensation button you will be able to turn your dial and ask your camera to either add some light or take away some light every time it takes a photograph.

This is not a setting I have talked about before because you don’t need it when you shoot in manual mode as you have complete control over the light you are allowing to enter.

If there is a lot of dark in your scene and you find that your camera is overexposing you can ask it to underexpose your images by dialing in some exposure compensation. How much depends on how overexposed the images are.

If you are just starting out and using this setting for the first time then I would recommend you take a few frames then have a look at the exposure your camera has given you. If they are just slightly too bright then you could press your exposure compensation button and use your dial to bring the exposure down by just a third of a stop (0.3). This would be just one turn of the dial and you will see that your light meter will no longer sit at zero, it will sit just one notch towards the positive side of zero. It might be that the images are WAY overexposed. In that case you will want to dial in much more exposure compensation. You might want to bring the exposure down by 1 or 2 stops (1.0 or 2.0). You can experiment until you are happy with what your camera is producing for you.

(If you just heard the word, ‘stop’, for the first time, don’t worry. I am talking about ‘stops’ on Monday so tune in to have this demystified!)

This all might seem like a bit of a pain but the actual process takes very little time and you will only have to do it once for each scene. As you get more practiced with your photography you will know just by looking at a scene that you will need to dial in some exposure compensation and the process will be even quicker.

3.Keep an eye on that shutter speed!

When you are in manual mode you are adjusting your shutter speed so you are always aware of what it’s at and you can take action when you see that it is getting too slow for you to handhold. Remember when this happens you get camera shake and a blurry image.

When you are in aperture priority mode your camera is controlling your shutter speed so it is very easy to get so caught up in shooting that you don’t notice that your shutter speed has become far too slow. Your camera will not pop your flash in aperture priority mode so you will end up with motion blur.

You need to get in the habit of checking your shutter speed all the time. Remember you should be doing this whilst looking through your viewfinder. You don’t need to check your screen unless you don’t have a viewfinder!

When your shutter speed dips below the minimum speed you need (click here to find out more about minimum shutter speeds for handholding your camera) you will need to take action to let in more light. Either by widening your aperture or by increasing your ISO.

If you think you might forget to keep an eye on this or you just need to shoot fast – check out number 4 below!

4.Use Auto ISO if Shutter Speed is Important and Light is Variable

Sometimes you just need to shoot. Stuff is happening – fast! Maybe you really don’t have time to be worrying about your shutter speed getting slow. Auto ISO will save your skin in this scenario. Most DSLRs and CSCs will allow you to turn your ISO to Auto. You should be able to select a minimum shutter speed and a maximum sensitivity.

So, for example, let’s say you are shooting indoors at a child’s birthday party. Lighting is all over the place and so are the kids. You have selected aperture priority so you can just shoot but your shutter speed keeps getting slow when you are in poor light. This means that you are constantly having to change your ISO. You chose aperture priority so you could work fast but this is now slowing you down again!

Auto ISO to the rescue! You would use your menu to switch on Auto ISO. There should be the option to select a minimum shutter speed when you do this. This allows you to tell your camera the slowest shutter speed you are willing to accept. At the kids party with, for example, a 50mm lens you would probably want a shutter speed of no slower than 1/125 of a second so you would select this as your minimum shutter speed. This means that whenever your shutter speed is about to drop below 1/125, your camera will automatically increase your ISO instead.

There might also be the option for you to select the maximum sensitivity (ISO) you are willing to accept. This will really depend on your camera, how low the light is and your personal preferences. With my D700 I keep my maximum sensitivity at 12800. It performs well at high ISO settings and I don’t mind a bit of noise. However, all cameras are different and so are their owners so you will have to learn what your own limits are.

If your camera reaches the maximum ISO you have set and cannot achieve the minimum shutter speed you have set – the shutter speed will fall below this. There is no alert or anything. Nothing’s perfect right?

5.Auto White Balance will also help you in changeable light

I know, I know! I told you in episode 12 to manually select your white balance and I stand by that. If you are in fairly consistent light then I believe you should be doing that for a consistent look to your images. However, we are talking here about scenarios when the light is all over the place or you are moving in and out of all different colours and strengths of light.

In these situations auto white balance can be a lifesaver. Select this and you won’t have to worry about changing your white balance every few minutes.

This teamed with aperture priority, matrix metering, exposure compensation and auto ISO means you will be able to work super fast whilst still retaining control over how you want your images to look.

6.Use ‘Exposure Lock’ to Stop your Camera from Changing the Shutter Speed

There will be times when you are using aperture priority that you want your exposure settings to stay the same for a few frames. Sometimes the slightest movement in this shooting mode can alter your shutter speed giving you a different exposure from one second to the next. Let’s say you are taking several shots of the same scene and you have found an exposure you are very happy with. If you want to stop your camera from adjusting the shutter speed whilst you are shooting here, all you need to do is press down your exposure lock button (AE-L) and keep it pressed down whilst you are shooting this scene. As long as you are pressing this button down your shutter speed will not change and you will get a consistent look to this particular set of images.

So that’s it guys – I hope these tips help you to use aperture priority to it’s fullest. It is a great shooting mode when you have tricky light conditions to work with.

I also hope that this has made you see that, actually, using aperture priority properly is just as much work (if not more) than exposing manually. With manual exposure you don’t have to worry about exposure compensation or exposure lock. In fairly consistent light you can spot meter for a perfect exposure, leave your settings alone and just shoot.

But it is all about the practice and if you listened yesterday you will know that I have an amazing manual exposure masterclass launching this month. This will be a practical audio course for you to do at your leisure which will give you an understanding of manual mode which took me years to get to. All you will need is a mobile device, a pair of headphones and your camera and it will be like having your own private photography tutor talking directly into your ears. I will talk you through 8 different exercises which I honestly wish someone had done with me 8 years ago!

If you want to be the first to hear about the launch and get access to the bargain introductory price (and it will be a bargain) then click here to add yourself to my VIP email list.

Next up on the podcast I will be talking about ‘stops’. Just what is a stop in photography? I hope you will join me for that!

The post Aperture Priority Tips – 21 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Nov 06 2015

19mins

Play

Rank #19: How to use foreground in your composition – Ep.31

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How to use Foreground – Composition in Photography Series

Today we are talking about how to use foreground in your composition. There are so many ways to do this and you will love developing your eye for it!

We are continuing our composition journey together – this is part 3 of my composition series and we are talking foreground! As I was thinking about the content for this show I realised that using foreground is one of my favourite ways to compose an image. Lots of people associate using foreground with landscape photography which I love looking at but don’t take part in. I am a people photographer but I still make use of foreground all the time.

So don’t dismiss this is a landscape technique. If you look around you will see foreground being used across all genres of photography.

But what do I mean when I say foreground? In photography, your foreground is simply the part of your image that is closest to the viewer. It is at the front of your scene. As photographers we think about our background quite carefully. We look for good backgrounds don’t we? Foreground – not so much.

But actually, good use of foreground can often set you apart. Using foreground well in your photography can really take an image from mediocre to fantastic!

Let’s think about what good use of foreground can add to an image…

  1. Depth

Probably the most obvious reason for including foreground in your image is to add depth to the scene. Of course a photograph is two-dimensional but that doesn’t mean it has to feel that way.

I’m sure you have had the pleasure of looking at a photograph and feeling as though you could walk right into it. That feeling comes from the photographer including some foreground, close to you, the viewer.

Take, for example, a sunset water scene. You have beautiful calm sea and a sky that’s on fire. The setting sun is reflecting right across the water. It’s a gorgeous setting and could be a photograph just like this with nothing else added.

But look below at the addition of the trees and hammock. All of a sudden there is depth. Another dimension has been added. You might have enjoyed looking at that sunset on the water before but now you feel like you could just stroll right in, lie down in that hammock and sip on a cocktail!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ironrodart/4290027967

Here in Scotland we all have screensavers of scenes just like this – it gets us through the cold, dark days!

  1. Context

Closely linked to using foreground to add depth is the use of foreground to add context. Some scenes could be anywhere at all and that concept can be fun. We all love a bit of mystery don’t we? We love to fill in the details for ourselves.

However, sometimes as a photographer you might want to make it clear where your subject is. You might want to show it in relation to its surroundings. You want to show where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Foreground can be used to great effect to give your subject this context.

Take for example this beautiful little white chapel. It could make an aesthetically pleasing picture on its own. You would appreciate the chapel but you would be left to imagine for yourself where it is.

 https://500px.com/fegari

However, the photographer has not done this. By moving a good distance away from the little chapel and crouching low in the grass and flowers, we can now see that it is set amongst wild grass with stunning mountains in the background. We now understand how the chapel slots into its environment.

  1. Framing

There are so many opportunities to frame your subject using something in the foreground. You only need to look around. When you do this you draw attention to your main subject in a really interesting way.

This is something I use a lot in my people photography. I love to take portraits and capture a real study of that person but I also love to step back and look for things in the foreground I can frame them in.

Obvious framing options are doorways, windows and arches and just because they are obvious doesn’t mean they are not effective. Use them whenever you can.

However, look for more obscure frames too. Trees, flowers, long grass, caves. I am going to go into environmental framing in more depth soon. It really deserves its own episode so I will leave it there.

https://www.findingtheuniverse.com/

  1. Contrast

Contrast adds depth and texture to an image. It really makes a scene come to life. To have contrast in a photograph, you have to capture light and shade.

More often than not the foreground you use in your image will be lit completely differently to your main subject. Usually it will be darker. Your eye is naturally drawn to the brighter parts of a scene so it does tend to work best if your foreground is in shadow and your subject is bathed in the light.

Take the image below. The foreground is quite dark and moody looking. It leads up to the main subject which is dramatic snow covered, sharp peaked mountain which is bathed in golden evening sunlight. Contrast in photography is truly a beautiful thing.

https://500px.com/iuriebelegurschi

  1. Leading

Another great way to use foreground in your photography is to allow it to lead your viewer’s eyes to the subject. Give your viewer a journey to go on. When you do this you become a storyteller, not just someone who takes photographs. Human eyes love to roam. Give them the opportunity to do that!

The boardwalk in the image makes you feel like you are standing dead centre at the very end of it looking out towards the water. Then it leads your eyes towards the water and the gorgeous sky.

Leading lines are very powerful and we will delve into this in more detail as we continue with our composition series.

https://www.wallpapervortex.com/

Tips for using foreground in your composition.

Look around

Open your eyes to foreground opportunities. We are so used to this three dimensional world we live in that we can miss beautiful composition chances all the time. I would recommend that every time you are photographing with purpose (not taking snapshots) you look around you for a way of taking a similar shot with some added foreground. This one habit alone will transform your photography and open you up to new ways to compose frames.

Get low

Whilst you are looking around for foreground, move around too. Getting low is a great way of seeing how your subject will look with some of that lower foreground in it. A low perspective also adds huge interest to an image since it is not an angle we are used to. Grab your viewer’s attention by showing what is usually underneath our line of vision.

Take your time

Once you have found some foreground and you have it all framed up in your viewfinder, take a moment. Move it around to find the sweet spot and look for distractions. But remember to also ask yourself,

‘Has this improved the image/made the image more interesting?’

If the foreground hasn’t added anything then it’s just distracting. It might even look like an accident. Take some time to think it all through.

Consider your aperture

What is your foreground’s purpose? Maybe it is there to give depth or to add an element of voyeurism to your image (more about that in our framing episode to come). In that case you might want to blur it out using a wider aperture. Or maybe you are capturing a landscape and you want sharpness from your foreground all the way to your main subject and beyond. In that case you will want to select a narrower aperture.

Remember though, you are the artist. It’s your story so tell it any way you like!

Do you use add foreground to your images? Let me know if you have any other tips in the comments!

The post How to use foreground in your composition – Ep.31 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 05 2016

17mins

Play

Rank #20: Are you making this metering mistake? – 19

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Are you Making this Metering Mistake? You Could be a ‘Meterholic’!

Today I am tackling a metering issue that so many of you are having! If you are finding the whole metering the light process tedious and repetitive and are on the verge of giving up manual mode (or maybe you already have) then this episode is for you!

Before we get into today’s show I just wanted to mention what a great week we have had over in the facebook community. The theme this past week has been lego and I can’t tell you imaginative, funny and creative these images have been! They have been so good in fact I have decided to use them throughout today’s show notes – enjoy!

Jen Scott’s entry – this was the winning image! Can you guess the film?

If you just heard the words ‘metering the light’ and have no idea what that means then don’t despair – I talk about this and teach you how to do it in Episodes 7 and 8 so pop back and have a listen if you would like to understand this a bit more. Alternatively, sign up for my FREE 10 day crash course at www.autotomanual.com – it’s easier than you think!

Remember, metering the light is just measuring. You are measuring the reflected light from your scene so that you can expose your image correctly.

This metering issue comes up time and time again both with those who have been on my workshop and those who have been listening to the podcast. For that very reason it had to get its very own podcast episode.

Lesley Watson

The best way to introduce the issue is to read out Rebecca’s email. Rebecca emailed me just over a week ago after completing the Auto to Manual in 10 Days crash course. She wrote;

“Hi Julie,

I have completed your 10 day email course and I really enjoyed it so first of all I wanted to say a big thank you. I have been trying to get into photography ever since I got my Canon Rebel two years ago but it is not until now that the whole manual mode thing is clicking into place. I’m finally starting to ‘get it’!

I do have a question though. Or maybe it’s more like a problem.

I think I am metering the light correctly. I understand how to do it and I am using all the settings you recommend. The thing is whenever I am taking photographs I just seem to spend half that time metering the light and I am missing shots all the time. My daughter is usually the subject of my photographs and she gets so fed up waiting on me every time I am metering that I end up just capturing her grumpy face or her back as she runs away from me! I have to admit to switching back to Auto sometimes just so I can take a shot quickly.

Do you have any advice or do I just have to keep practicing?”

Rebecca I hope you don’t mind me using your email and what I want to say first is that you are not alone with this issue. I work with so many beginners and this comes up all the time. So much so that I now make a point of mentioning it during my workshops.

The part of your email I want to focus on is this part;

“…I just seem to spend half that time metering the light and I am missing shots all the time.”

Fiona Anderson

Here’s the thing…

Stop metering all the time.

You are what I like to call, a ‘meterholic’. I used to suffer from this condition myself so I know ALL ABOUT IT Rebecca!

Now I am not going to pick on Rebecca here. I am going to talk to all of you. Let me set the scene. Let’s say you are a parent taking some photographs of the kids. You have taken them to a great location and you have found some great light to place them in.

Now if you are wondering how on earth you know whether you have found great light or not then stay tuned to the podcast because I have a whole series of episodes coming up on that subject…

So you have found your location, you have found your light and now you are ready to take some photographs.

Andy Hutts

Now if you are going to be photographing kids – don’t ask them to stand still in front of your camera whilst you fiddle about with your settings for half an hour. They WILL get bored! There are lots of things you could do before you need to meter the light from their faces. So what could you do without them having to be there? Let’s go through all the things I have taught you so far;

  • You check your focus settings (remember, for beginners, I recommend just leaving them set to AF-C & Dynamic for Nikon users and AI Servo & Manual point selection for Canon users)
  • You select your white balance according to the weather
  • You select your aperture based on the depth of field you want or need
  • You select your ISO (you will probably start at ISO 100 if you are outside)

All of  this can be done on the way or whilst the kids play and run around. If you haven’t a clue what I was just talking about then that’s another reason to sign up for my completely free 10 day crash course. It should demystify it all for you.

If you have another adult with you then use their face to meter the light. I know there are variations in skin tone but remember not to get too caught up in perfection. You can tweak your exposure so easily and quickly afterwards.

Lindsay McAllister

If you don’t have another adult with you then set something up for the kids to do in the place that you have chosen to take these photographs in. For example put a picnic rug down and give them a snack or some toys to play with whilst you sit nearby and meter the light from one of their faces. So let’s remind ourselves of that process (and again, if you are unsure of anything below then the crash course will really help you!)

  • You have selected your aperture and your ISO so now you have to meter the light to find the shutter speed that you need
  • Nikon users – you always meter using your focus point (wherever it may be in your frame)
  • Canon users – you always meter using the centre of your frame (it doesn’t matter whether your focus point is there or not)
  • You adjust your shutter speed until that light meter gives you a zero reading
  • You check that the shutter speed is fast enough for your needs – if not then you increase your ISO until you get a satisfactory shutter speed
  • You take a test shot to check the exposure – is the image too dark, too bright or just right?
  • If it’s too dark then you need more light, so you either slow down the shutter speed or if you don’t want your shutter speed to be slower, you simply increase the ISO
  • If it’s too bright then you need less light, so you either speed up the shutter speed or, if your ISO is not already at it’s lowest setting, then you could decrease your ISO
  • You keep taking test shots until you are happy with your exposure and you MUST remember to make sure you are happy with your shutter speed

Now that all sounds like a hassle but in reality it takes MUCH less time for you to do it all than for me to say it all.

But guys, after you have gone through that process – that’s it! You have your exposure! You are ready to take photographs in that location and in that light.

YOU DON’T NEED TO METER AGAIN UNLESS THE LIGHT CHANGES!

Chantal Macleod-Holdsworth

You are now free to just take photographs. You are free to concentrate completely on composing your images well and nailing your focus. How awesome is that? You just need to click, click, click and you know that your exposure is going to be good.

Think about it. Why would you meter again?

Let me tell you what happens when you are a meterholic. You are addicted to your light meter reading zero. You are obsessed with your light meter being at zero all the time. If it’s not at zero then you frantically try to get it to zero. Does this sound familiar to some of you?

This will drive you crazy. You simply will not want to take any photographs if you are going through this process constantly. How demoralising!

Paul Baker

Think about this. Let’s say the kids have pale skin but they are wearing dark clothing. So you meter from their pale skin and you get the perfect exposure for them. You take your test shot and you are happy. Then you start to take your ‘proper’ photographs and as you do so your metering point moves to their dark clothing. All of a sudden your light meter is going to give you a negative reading. It’s going to say, ‘Hey I need more light here – I can’t expose this with these settings!’

A meterholic, in this situation, will say, ‘Yes Sir Mr Light Meter!’ and will promptly go and adjust their exposure settings until the meter reads zero. But what will happen if you meter the light from those dark clothes? The faces will be way overexposed! And that’s a disaster in people photography.

The truth is your light meter will sometimes give you a hundred different readings in the space of a couple of minutes of shooting.

Of course it will. There are a hundred different colours and textures in your scene – all reflecting different amounts of light.

Once you have found your perfect exposure for this particular light, who cares what your meter says after that? That’s why you went through the process of metering the light in the first place. Ignore it after that!

And I know what you are thinking now – I do!

Craig Murray

What if the light does change?

Well then of course your exposure settings will have to change too. If the sun suddenly goes behind a cloud, yes you will need to slow down your shutter speed or increase your ISO.

If you move from the open air to the shade you will have to do the same thing.

If the sun suddenly comes out from behind the clouds you will have to speed up your shutter speed or decrease your ISO.

And let me tell you something about that. The more you take photographs the more that will become so quick and easy for you. You will notice a light change immediately and you will instinctively slow down or speed up your shutter.

But you only have to do it ONCE every time the light changes. Only once and then leave it.

Ok so I know what you are thinking now.

But Julie, what if the light is changing ALL THE TIME???

Darren Thomas

Yes I feel your pain. Situations like this are a bit of a nightmare. Some examples might be;

Outdoors when the weather is sunny with clouds and the clouds are moving fast. So the sun is coming out fully, then moving behind a light fluffy cloud, then out again, then moving behind a thicker white cloud then behind a darker, grey cloud. (Take a moment to sympathise with wedding photographers on days like this).

Indoors with people moving all over the room. So sometimes they are right beside a window and other times they are in the far corner with hardly any window light reaching them at all.

In full manual mode, these situations are exposure nightmares.

Claire Booth

I am in manual mode pretty much 90% of the time. It’s not often that I have a day when the light is changing so drastically and so quickly that I can’t cope with it and when I take photographs indoors I make sure I set up the shots in lovely window light. If someone moves to a dark corner I just won’t be taking that picture. Not with my DSLR anyway. If it’s just a snapshot to record a memory (maybe the kids are doing something cute or funny) then I will grab my phone and record it with that. A snapshot is a snapshot!

However I totally appreciate that there are situations when you need to be taking photographs quickly in incredibly changeable light. Weddings for example. A wedding photographer has to take photographs all day, quickly and in every light scenario imaginable.

When I find myself in light which is changing ALL THE TIME and I have to work quickly – I switch to a semi-automatic shooting mode. My choice would be Aperture Priority. And more on THAT in the next episode . . .

I hope you will join me!

Julie

The post Are you making this metering mistake? – 19 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Oct 03 2015

18mins

Play

Stuck in a rut with your Photography? – Take this challenge! Ep. 44

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Stuck in a Rut with your Photography? Take our #30in30challenge and revive your passion!

Hey Tea Break Togs – we’ve had a break but the podcast is back for a whole new season starting today with a challenge. I have a photography challenge for you – are you up for it? I hope so because it just might be the turning point you have been waiting for…

So I’m going to kick off episode 44 with a confession. I’m going to tell you something that I have really been struggling with in my photography recently and I know that some of you will be able to relate. So have a listen (or read if you prefer…)

After launching ‘Master Natural Light’ I took some down time. The kids came off school for the Easter holidays and I really wanted to spend some real quality time with them, which I did and it was fantastic. My husband and I took the kids away for five days to a little lodge on a loch and we had an absolute ball just walking, building fires and just re-connecting, you know?

It was amazing.

We then had a long weekend away the following week with family to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary and my mum’s birthday. Again, it was just wonderful to be together without any of that day-to-day normality which seems to get in the way of really enjoying each other doesn’t it?

For both trips I, of course, packed the camera. But it was more out of habit than desire. I took it but I didn’t have the usual excitement about the photographs I was going to take. In fact, I hardly thought about that at all. Usually this would be something I would really look forward to.

Throughout both trips away I took a grand total of 12 photographs. And even then, I wasn’t feeling it. It was an effort.

When we drove home after that second trip I fully intended to get right back into the podcast and my photography but this lack of passion for it whilst I was away was definitely inside my head. I was just feeling a bit detached from photography and the desire to create images.

Now I know this is not unusual. I hear from photographers all the time who tell me they have lost some or all of their passion for photography. And this isn’t the first time it has happened to me either.

I am certain that professional photographers suffer from this more than enthusiasts do. The reason being that when you take photographs for a living, sometimes your creativity suffers as a result.

As a professional photographer, you spend most of your time taking photographs for other people and trying to provide them with what they want. You are rarely getting the time to really immerse yourself in photography that truly feeds your creativity and keeps your passion alive.

Clients commission you because they have seen your work and they love it. So it is important that you provide them with images in line with what they have seen from you. The problem with that is that you might start to get a little bored with this style you have become known for.

You might be doing it so much that you become ‘stuck in a rut’.

This is, of course, a generalisation. There will be many professionals who never encounter this problem and keep themselves interested and enthusiastic with plenty of variety and creative opportunities. However, I know there will be many, like myself, who find themselves going through a bit of a creative slump from time to time.

It happens to enthusiasts too. You can become bored of the images you are capturing or you feel ‘stuck’ at a certain level and are struggling to progress beyond this.

Maybe you are caught in that horrible place of comparing yourself to other, more advanced, photographers. That is a highly unpleasant place to be.

Comparing yourself to others is a sure-fire way to absolutely cripple your vision and your progress.

When you enter a slump like this, for whatever reason, the urge to pick up your camera starts to fade. And of course, when you are not practicing and growing your skills – your development halts. That is so demoralising and obviously makes you even less likely to pick up your camera.

It’s a vicious cycle really and I know that some photographers, both professionals and enthusiasts, have been so badly affected by this that they have simply quit.

I am nowhere near quitting photography, thank goodness! But I am aware that I need to give myself a good kick up the backside and be proactive about this problem.

If you have been to one of my photography workshops then you will have heard me talk about a challenge to set yourself whenever you feel stuck in a creative rut. This is the challenge I am setting myself and I am going to challenge you to do it with me.

Are you up for it?

Let me explain how it will work – It’s very simple. I’m calling it the #30in30challenge. The idea is to visit an outdoor location of your choice. It doesn’t have to be a breathtaking location – somewhere simple is probably better for this.

When you get there your challenge is to take at least 30 different photographs in that location, in just 30 minutes.

There are only two rules. The 30 images must be different and they must be taken within 30 minutes. You can start as soon as you get there or you can take a bit of time to think first. But as soon as you press that shutter for the first time – your 30 minutes begins!

I know what you are thinking – no one will know if you cheated or not unless they were there.

But you will! Where is the fun in that? I trust you all!

Now if you are thinking that one image every minute seems tricky, when I say they must be different – that doesn’t mean that you can’t capture the same subject more than once. Not at all! In fact, you could capture the same subject lots of times as long as each image is captured differently, e.g. from a different angle, from a different distance, using a different depth of field/focal length, focusing on a different detail…

When you think of it like this 30 images in 30 minutes is actually totally realistic! You might capture 5 using one subject in just a minute or two and this will leave you with some thinking time in between. It’s entirely up to you how you choose to tackle it.

For example, one photographer might choose to take some time and think through each shot. They might only take 30 images in the allocated 30 minutes. Another photographer might take 130! They might take lots of similar shots and will allow for some duds (come on, we all get them!). The aim is to be able to choose your best 30 different images at the end. However you arrive at those 30 images is up to you.

Your images can be of anything at all within your chosen location.

If you want to take a person or people with you and incorporate them into some images, that is absolutely fine and it is what I will be doing.

And because I know that pressure can lead to creative paralysis – here is a list of prompts to help you!

  • Where are the potential leading lines in your location? (Remember these are not always obvious.)
  • What can you see around you that can act as foreground?
  • Any texture you can capture? (peeling paint, rusting metal, long grass, tree bark etc…)
  • Get down low – what could you capture from down there?
  • Get up high – any interesting angles from this point of view?
  • What do you see that could be a natural frame for your subject/scene?
  • What’s crying out for a close-up?
  • Any interesting wide-angle shots?
  • What about little details of larger things?
  • Do you see any beautiful or interesting light?
  • Can you walk around one subject and capture it from different angles and in different light to create completely different images?
  • Can you see any symmetry?
  • What can you shoot with a shallow/deep depth of field?
  • Any silhouette opportunities?
  • Any reflection opportunities?
  • Any interesting colours?

Take this list of prompts along with you and you shouldn’t be short of inspiration. Print off the image below…

But what will you do with your images after you have completed the challenge?

Well – simply pop them into a collage and upload your collage to our Facebook Group – Tea Break Togs. Make sure you include the hashtag #30in30challenge

If you are not a member of our Facebook group – swing by and request to join. It’s a great place to be!

Please make sure it is our Facebook group you upload your collages to and not our main Facebook business page – we really might not see it if you put it there.

If you are not on Facebook that doesn’t mean you can’t join in with the challenge! Do this just for yourself or you can email your collage to me at julie@teabreaktog.com if you want to share it.

The main thing is doing it!

Just to be clear. This is not about getting 30 amazing images. This is about getting 30 decent images. If you managed 30 outstanding images in 30 minutes you wouldn’t be human. The purpose of this challenge is to get you out there taking photographs. Pushing you out of your comfort zone so that you are forced to consider images that you otherwise wouldn’t think of taking. You never know – it might just be the start of something!

Don’t worry if you have no idea how to create a collage with 30 images. I have made a 5 minute video showing you how to do this with Google Picasa which is completely free to download and super easy to use. You can find the video below…

I know what your next question will be! How long have you got to take part in this challenge? Well it did cross my mind to make this the #ThursdayTheme for this week but then I thought one week was not really long enough to give as many people a chance to do this as possible. I didn’t want to be a meanie.

So we are going to dedicate the month of May to this. You have one whole month to undertake this #30in30challenge.

Leave me a comment below if you are going to take part!

The post Stuck in a rut with your Photography? – Take this challenge! Ep. 44 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Apr 29 2016

19mins

Play

How to organise your digital photographs for sanity! – Ep.43

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How to organise your digital photographs for sanity!

Today I am going to give you my top tips for filing and organising your many digital photographs. Are you guilty of taking hundreds of photos and then when you want to find one you have to spend an hour searching your computer to lay your hands on it? Well stay tuned!

This week has been an absolute whirlwind! I launched ‘Master Natural Light’ on Tuesday which is so cool. If you haven’t already checked it out then you can do so right here. It is three hours of 100% actionable guidance on how to control natural light in so many different situations including using direct sunlight, golden hour light, window light. Not just with people but with still life subjects too.

It is only £35 (approx $50). I know – super cheap! But only until Sunday 27th March at midnight so there are just a few days left to grab it at that price. That’s not all. If you buy during launch week you also get a bonus 30 minute video where you get to watch me edit two of the images from the course in Lightroom and Photoshop. That is only available as a free bonus until Sunday so if this course interests you then this week is the time to buy.

www.masternaturallight.com

Anyway – enough of that! I am going to get on with helping you sort out those digital photographs of yours! I know you have lots and I know they are lurking around all over your computer and on external hard drives and pen drives. Some of them are on your phone, some are on Facebook, some are in the cloud, I could go on…

If someone asked you to find one from a few years ago – let’s just say you would be busy for a while trying to put your hands on it, right?

And don’t even mention printing photographs! I mean who does that anymore?

But, secretly, I know you want to, don’t you? You want to regularly print your favourite photographs. You want to make albums and display them in frames and send them to relatives.

But life gets in the way doesn’t it? You have so many digital images all over the place that the thought of sitting down and looking through them all is pretty daunting! You will probably get caught up in it and be there all day so it’s best to leave it until you are off work later in the year. Yes you will do it then. But by then there are another five thousand photographs and the task seems even more overwhelming!

Before you know it you have one hundred zillion (what do you mean I exaggerate?) digital photographs scattered around the place that you never look at and not one single one is printed.

Does this sound familiar? If not, then you can probably sign off from this episode now. You are clearly a genius in the art of digital photo storage and organisation and you don’t need this advice.

For the rest of you – let’s sort this mess out going forward!

I am going to give you some good advice for making sure you can always lay your hands on any photograph in just minutes. Not only that, you will be printing your favourites regularly.

Now, you will hear lots of different advice from lots of different people on this subject. Everyone has their own way and their own opinions. Some will tell you to be tagging your images with keywords etc. I will not be going that far at all! If you are anything like me – that kind of advice is just not realistic! I find it hard enough organising my children for school in the morning. Tagging every image I take with a keyword is so far removed from who I am.

So I will share with you what I do. It is simple and realistic for you to implement – TODAY!

  1. Upload your images the same day as you take them.

Come on – this isn’t difficult guys! This is totally do-able. Just because you have space for 5000 images on your memory card doesn’t mean that you should wait until it’s full!!! Imagine downloading all those images at the same time? What if the card gets damaged? And what are the chances you are ever going to look through all of those images? Slim to none, I’d say!

As soon as it is physically possible connect that card reader to your computer and get those images off the card and organised.

Which brings me to my next tip…

  1. Store your images on an external hard drive and back up to the cloud.

Don’t upload your images to your computer – keep that nice and clean. If you fill it full of large digital images and you will soon find it starts to get sluggish. Is there anything more frustrating than sitting waiting on a slow computer?

But don’t stop there! Make sure you link your computer and your external hard drive to some cloud storage and back up all of your digital photographs there. This means if you lose your hard drive or it gets damaged somehow you will never lose these precious memories. We all know someone this has happened to – the risk is real!

There are countless options for cloud storage. I use Backblaze but I know lots of people who take advantage of unlimited cloud photo storage included with their Amazon Prime subscription so if you are a prime customer then that is definitely worth checking out!

  1. Have a filing system – here is mine!

Don’t just upload your images to random folders. You need a good system to ensure that you can lay your hands on any photograph quickly.

This is what I do.

I have one external hard drive for each year. I place a sticky label on it with the year.

All that’s on that hard drive is photographs. That’s all. They are not mixed up with other files confusing things. So you open up my hard drive and what you will see is just twelve folders going from 01 JAN to 12 DEC. The reason I number the months like that is so that they stay in chronological order and not alphabetical order.

Then inside each month folder you will find my image folders. I name them so specifically. I do not have the folders named by dates. I want to be able to see at a glance what is in each folder. So I will open up 02 FEB from this year and I will see folders called ‘Joe’s birthday at Battlefield’ , ‘Long grasses at golden hour’, ‘Rugby Tournament’ etc. There is no mistaking which photographs are in those folders.

Now it is even clearer why you should upload AS SOON AS POSSIBLE isn’t it? Imagine going back through 5000 images doing this? You just wouldn’t. And then they might as well not even have been taken because no one will ever look through them!

So when I open up one of these very specifically named folders I see five more folders. These are ‘RAW Files’, ‘Lightroom JPGs’, ‘High JPGs’, ‘Low JPGs’ and ‘Favourites’

I have these folders empty as templates in my external hard drive so that I can just copy and paste them into every new image set folder ready to be populated with images.

The ‘RAW files’ folder is where I upload my raw images straight from the camera. I then look through these in Lightroom, pick a few to work on and export just those ones to ‘Lightroom JPGs’ after making some crops and basic light adjustments. After that I might work on those Lightroom JPGs in photoshop a little and then I will export the final, high resolution, edited images to my ‘High JPGs’ folder and I will also export the low resolution edited images to my ‘Low JPGs’ folder. The high jpgs are for printing and the low jpgs are for sharing online.

I then select my absolute favourites and pop them in the ‘favourites’ folder. This is so that I can send them off to be printed quickly or lay my hands on my best images in the future without any hassle.

Now that’s not to say that I do this for every set of images. Sometimes I just take a set and don’t bother editing them at all. I just export as JPEGs and use them. But the point is, the system is there and in place for when I do want to work through them like this.

  1. Don’t cull – choose your favourites

This is so important. When you are looking through your images – don’t look for the rubbish and delete. Look for the ones you like and select them. I use Lightroom so I ‘flag’ my keepers but whatever software you use will allow you to flag your images in some way.

The reason you should do this when you are looking through your images is because it makes you feel great! Looking for the good stuff you have captured makes you smile. Looking for the crap makes you feel crap! Why do that? Just skim past those ones and forget they even exist!

I am ruthless and I delete the rest but I know that doesn’t sit easy with lots of people – so do as you wish. Hard drives are cheap these days so it doesn’t hurt to keep them all. As long as you have a good folder system and you keep them off your computer’s hard drive, it won’t matter that you keep all of your RAW files.

  1. Print regularly

I have a folder on my desktop and it simply says, ‘To Print’. All my favourite edited images go in there and then I just upload them to DS Colour Labs or Loxley Colour and get them printed. I then replace photos in frames or send them off to grandparents. But I get them printed! We must keep printed photographs alive!

Another great thing to do if you have lots of photographs is to make up yearly photobooks. If you are like me and you can never find the time (nor the inclination) to design these – you can get them done for you! How great is that? You can upload them to your favourite printing lab, choose a photobook and get their software to populate it for you! It might not be perfect but does it matter??? They will be printed in a book forevermore on your bookshelf. How wonderful and special is that?

Let me know on facebook, twitter or in the comments – how are your digital photograph organisation skills? Be honest. Are you a messy filer or are you a dab hand at this? Maybe you have some other tips you could share with us?

Don’t forget to check out the video course – it is only a ridiculous £35 until Sunday and it is worth it I promise. www.masternaturallight.com

Take a look at the trailer below;

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The post How to organise your digital photographs for sanity! – Ep.43 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 24 2016

16mins

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7 Reasons to Shoot During Golden Hour – Ep.42

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7 Reasons to Shoot During Golden Hour

Today I am talking about that magical time just after the sun rises or just before it sets when the light is just delightful to behold. But why is ‘golden hour’ such a glorious time to shoot? Well, just give me 15 minutes of your time and I will give you seven reasons to shoot during golden hour…

This post began as a podcast which you can listen to below but we know some of you prefer to read so you can do that too!

We had a glorious day here on Monday. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and there was even some warmth in the air. When the weather starts to turn here in Scotland you can almost feel the sigh of relief from the whole nation. Everyone was out in the sun on Monday after work and school. It was fantastic to see. The sun just makes everything feel better, doesn’t it?

I headed out with Johnny and the kids to film the golden hour section of my (soon to be released!) ‘Master Natural Light’ video course. We got to our location around 5.15pm and the sun was due to set at 6.15pm. We shot whilst the sun was still up and continued on after it set whilst there was still some light in the sky.

There aren’t words to describe how much I love shooting during golden hour. I am almost dancing around and zooming from spot to spot speaking at a hundred miles per hour. It’s exciting but its also high pressure because you have such a limited time. There is added pressure at this time of year because the sun sets so quickly. It moves down so fast you can almost see the shadows lengthening before your very eyes. If you’re not super-fast, the shot you thought you had 5 minutes ago is no longer possible!

I thought this was a good subject for a podcast episode because I remember just a few years ago I would look and look at gorgeous golden hour shots taken by other photographers and just wish I knew how to recreate them. Every time I tried I would fail. I just couldn’t work it out! I would take lots of shots with lots of different exposures and I would edit them lots of different ways. But more often than not, if I got a shot I liked it was because I got lucky and I struggled to do it again.

I can shoot during golden hour now and when it all fell into place it was the same as when anything photography related has fallen into place for me.

It was the realisation that my location and my exposure and my editing actually meant nothing if I wasn’t taking the time to examine the light.

Where was it coming from? Was there anything I could filter it with? Where could I place my subject to get the most out of that light? What colour was it? Where were the shadows? What else was the light hitting in my scene? The questions go on…

So in the ‘Master Natural Light’ course you will see me work during golden hour with my kids. I talk you through everything that I am doing and I explain why. Video is really the only way I can do this effectively I think. I never thought I would see the day that I would be putting myself in front of a video camera but weirdly it is starting to feel kind of normal!

But you might be wondering why golden hour is so special?

Why should you make the effort to shoot during this time? Because, let’s face it, after a long day you might be pretty tired and the last thing on your mind is to sling your camera over your shoulder and head out to chase the last of the sun. Equally, getting out of bed at some ungodly hour just in case you get a good sunrise is far from appealing when you have a busy day ahead.

Before I tell you why it is worth making the effort to do this, let me just say that you don’t get golden hour every day. I know that might seem obvious but sometimes you need to state the obvious, right?

Golden hour only happens when the sun is out. If the sky is covered with clouds then golden hour passes us by unfortunately. So if you live somewhere like me then golden hour is rare!!! When it happens you should grab it with both hands! If you are lucky enough to have golden hour most days then, wow, what an opportunity you have to really fine-tune your golden hour shooting skills! You can even plan your golden hour shoots! Something that I have never really been able to do.

Also, golden hour isn’t necessarily an ‘hour’. It can be longer or shorter than that depending on where you are in the world and what time of year it is. In the depths of winter here in the North-East of Scotland, we get a golden five minutes!

So is it worth it, you might ask?

Oh yes!!! Here is why;

Soft light

When the sun is low in the sky, the light is much more diffused than it is when it is high. This means the light is softer and there is less contrast around. Your shadows won’t be as dark and your highlights won’t be as bright meaning you will have an easier time exposing your scene. But this diffused, softer sunlight also produces…

Atmosphere

Although your shadows will be softer, they will be longer. This can provide you with superb atmosphere in every genre of photography but especially with landscapes. Team that with the warm, golden light and you have the opportunity to create something very special that simply wouldn’t be possible in the middle of the day.

https://williampatino.com

Colour

Colours are deeper and richer in golden hour when the sun is just above the horizon. The red and orange light cast by the low sun bathes everything in a golden light that just doesn’t exist at any other time of the day. It is magical and peaceful and breathtaking. It can make the most mundane object look dazzling. But it doesn’t stop there, when the sun is just below the horizon then comes the cool, blue light that can be so atmospheric – particularly in landscape shots.

Backlighting

Golden hour is the perfect time to use backlight. That low sun will create a golden rim light around your subject, and if you expose this well, it will give your image real wow factor. You can create dark images where the rim light is the star of the show or you can use a reflector or fill flash to light your subject from the front. Both will look fabulous if done well.

Glowing portraits

If you are shooting with people, the only time they can safely look towards the sun is when it is very low in the sky. So as well as turning their back to it and creating the rim light effect, you can also turn them toward the sun and allow their skin to be bathed in that gorgeous, golden light. People simply glow in that light. It is soft, golden and seriously flattering. It is also easy to expose for because the shadows will be minimal on the face if the sun is hitting them from the front.

Silhouettes

A perfect time for silhouettes is when golden hour finishes with a beautiful sunset. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the sun just sets with very little ceremony. But sometimes, especially if there are some clouds just above the horizon, you are treated to a glorious, fiery sky. Silhouettes are so easy to capture at this time of day. Simply find a spot where you can place your subject with the sunset behind them, expose for the sky and boom!

Sun flare

Sun flare is marmite. Some love it and some hate it. I love it when it is used well. It happens when you shoot into the sun. The rays hit your lens at a certain angle and they scatter before they get to the sensor. It creates these gorgeous beams and streaks of light or light shapes in your image. Often it happens by accident but you can create it on purpose, and this is especially effective during golden hour when the sun is softer and lower.

So there it is – 7 reasons to shoot during golden hour! Get a golden hour app installed on your phone, check the weather regularly and get out there as often as you possibly can!

If you want to know more about how to shoot in golden hour get yourself on the Tea Break Tog VIP list. My ‘Master Natural Light’ course is launching next week and if you are on that list you will not only get access to the first video absolutely free but you will also get exclusive access to other goodies to.

The post 7 Reasons to Shoot During Golden Hour – Ep.42 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 18 2016

14mins

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Reflector colours and how they can improve your photography! Ep.41

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Reflector colours and how they can improve your photography!

Today we are talking reflectors! Specifically, reflector colours and how they can improve your photography. I talked about using these marvellous tools during the ‘Window Light 3 Ways’ webinar last week and we had a few questions about them during and afterwards so I thought it would be helpful to create an episode around them.

This began as a podcast episode but below is the content if you prefer to read…

It has been 5 days since the window light webinar and I am still getting messages and emails about it every day. Lots of you have been watching the replay and getting in touch. I am so glad it has helped so many of you with your window light photography!

I have been looking through the questions and lots are related to reflectors. Namely, what size is best, why are they different colours, what do the different colours do and which should you use for best results.

It seemed sensible to answer you in full using the podcast. I know lots of you went straight online to buy a reflector after the webinar so let’s make sure you are going to get the most out of your purchase!

As with everything, reflectors vary. They don’t all have 5 sides. However, the reflectors I purchase are 5-in-1s. They have five different coloured sides and they are cheap as chips. I mentioned during the webinar that I tend to leave them in fields and parks around the country so I don’t want to spend lots of money on them. I get mine from eBay for around £12 and they do me just fine.

When popped out – they are circular and just over a metre in diameter but fold away into a small black circular bag. I also have a triangular one which has a little handle at one end. The shape doesn’t put me up nor down. I work equally well with both.

Let’s talk about the different coloured sides. They are a bit of a mystery when you first get your reflector unless you read up about it all first but there is a side for every occasion and that is what I am going to help you to understand during this episode.

A 5-in-1 reflector will come with a zippy cover on it. One side will be white, one will be silver then you turn it inside out and the other sides will be black and gold (not necessarily in that order). The fifth side is what is underneath the cover. It is thin and almost translucent.

White Side

Let’s start with the white side. This side is the most commonly used, however, more often than not I find that it isn’t actually enough. This side is used simply to bounce some soft, fresh light into the shadows of your scene. The reflector needs to be pretty close to your subject to make much of a difference and there needs to be plenty of strong light available to begin with.

‘white side of reflector used close to the subject to bounce light from window back into the shadowy side of her face’

I only use the white side when I can get the reflector close and I have plenty of light to work with. In these conditions it is definitely the most subtle and flattering way of bouncing light, for portraits especially. However, on a very cloudy day or in lower light there simply wont be enough light to really make a difference with this white side. In situations like this – you need the silver side…

Silver Side

I use my silver side a lot. Living in Scotland and working mainly with natural light means it saves me time and time again! The silver side is awesome in low light because it reflects a lot more light than the white and it can go a long way to improving those catchlights in the eyes.

It is definitely not something you should bring out in harsh light. If you catch the sun with it you are going to be firing some pretty strong rays are anyone in its path. I would save this side for lower light.

There is a danger of the light reflected from this silver side being a bit on the ‘cold’ side. If you find this is happening, a better option might be the gold side…

Gold Side

Again, you don’t want to be reflecting sunlight with this side – best save it for diffused light if you don’t want to blind people! This gold side really warms up the light you are bouncing back into your scene. This can be very helpful in very cold light if your subjects are all looking like death warmed up but, if I am honest, I find it too much. I rarely use it. I prefer to use the silver side and then use my white balance setting to warm up the scene if I need to.

Black Side

This basically has the opposite purpose of all the other sides. It doesn’t reflect light – it blocks it. As beautiful as even, diffused light can be – you really can’t beat some shadows! For me, good shadows elevate your photography to new levels. You can create shadows in places where they don’t exist by using the black side to block light from reaching certain areas of your scene.

It takes a lot of playing about and subtle movements to find what works but what is learning photography about if it isn’t about playing! I have had my biggest ‘aha’ moments from just messing around with light.

I have to admit I hardly use this black side. I always forget about it. I am definitely going to use it more!

Translucent Side

This is usually in the middle of your reflector. It is like the frame that the whole thing is formed around. It is white and translucent – allowing light to be filtered through it. It is a diffuser.

This side should be used in direct light and it should be placed between your subject and the light source. For example, let’s say you are taking a photograph of someone in direct sunlight. You want them lit from the front but the sun is too bright for them to look towards. You could place the diffuser in front of their face between them and the sun and, voila, you spread that sunlight evenly across their face for a softer, diffused, flattering effect.

If you purchased a reflector after the webinar or you already have one which is sorely underused – I hope this helps you to break it out and experiment with it. It is a truly wonderful piece of kit and most definitely worth some time and effort. The rewards are fantastic!

Before I go I just want to give you a heads-up on my ‘Master Natural Light’ video course. The filming will all be complete by tomorrow and the course will be launching on Monday 21st March. This course will allow you to watch me work with natural light in lots of different scenarios. Direct sun indoors and outdoors, diffused light indoors and outdoors and golden hour. Not just with people but with other subjects too. There is so much in there.

I will be releasing the first training video absolutely free of charge to those on my VIP list later this week. If you want to get your hands on that first video then make sure you sign up to become a Tea Break Tog VIP.

What does being a Tea Break Tog VIP mean?

Not only will you get this first video free but you will also be invited to future exclusive, live webinars during which I will host Q&A sessions about all aspects of photography and facilitate live image critique sessions featuring the images YOU send in to us. That’s not all though – as a VIP you will also be given lifetime discounts for every premium product we create.

I’d say it is definitely worth getting yourself on that list. You can join at www.teabreaktogvip.com

As always – we never send spam so you don’t have anything to worry about there and you can unsubscribe at any time with just one click.

I hope to see you over there!

The post Reflector colours and how they can improve your photography! Ep.41 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 15 2016

13mins

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How to find the right light for your photography – using just your hand! Ep.40

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How to find the right light for your photography – using just your hand!

Today I am sharing a super-quick tip that will help you with how to find the right light for your photography – even when you are working on your own. All you need is your hand. Cool right? Although this originated as a podcast episode – we provide it in blog form for you too.

Wow – 40 episodes down! I’m not going to lie – today I am EXHAUSTED! Last night I hosted my first ever live webinar. It was one hour dedicated to using window light in three different ways and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I spent the whole day yesterday fretting and tweaking and practicing with the software. By the time the webinar started I was a quivering wreck!

If you managed to attend then I can’t thank you enough. I couldn’t believe the numbers joining. So much so that the webinar maxed out and some of you couldn’t join. I am so sorry about that but there IS a recording and you can watch it right here.

Your feedback has been great – I am so delighted that you enjoyed it and you found it useful. I received a Facebook message last night from Celia who said;

‘Dear Julie, I have just logged off from your webinar and wanted to make contact with you before life gets in the way and I forget. Never before has an hour passed so quickly for me before. And never before have I had so much high quality information and advice passed on to me so willingly and enthusiastically. I just can’t wait to try it all out. I have seen images using side light before and I love them but I have never been able to recreate them. I now completely understand what I was doing wrong. Like you said, I was trying to brighten the shadows! But you are right – the shadows make it wonderful. I am so desperate for the sun to come up tomorrow so that I can try! I can’t wait for the natural light course to come out. Thank you again for sharing so much of your hard earned knowledge and expertise. I am off to subscribe to your podcast!’

I am not kidding when I say there were tears when I read that message (ok so I was a bit tired and emotional). It means the world!

If you would like to watch the webinar then the recording is available to all. You can watch it right here.

But for now – let’s talk about this ‘hand trick’ that you can use to find the light.

Last week I talked to you in detail about finding the best light for your portrait photography and I taught you my trick of asking my subject to turn on the spot whilst I walk around them.

But what about when you are working on your own capturing other things? You don’t always have someone with you do you?

Sometimes it is abundantly clear where the light is coming from. If the sun is out and you are out in the open, then of course the light is coming from wherever the sun is. If you are indoors in a room with one window, then of course the light is coming from the window. These are times when you don’t need to put any effort into thinking about light direction – it is pretty obvious.

But I find myself in situations OFTEN when I am not 100% sure about where my best light is coming from.

For example, maybe you are outdoors in a built-up area. There are buildings all around you and you are in shade. The sun might be behind you but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is where you will get your best light. There might be too many tall building casting shadows. Maybe there is a gap between two buildings in front of you which is actually providing better quality front light.

Or perhaps you are in the woods and you are trying to work out where your best light is through the trees surrounding you?

Or maybe you are in a room with lots of windows. Where is the best light coming from?

Well, there is a ‘tried and tested’ trick to finding the light and it involves nothing but your hand.

I use it all the time and it works a treat.

You do need to develop a keen eye to really use this well but once you start seeing it – you will never stop.

To explain, you stand in the middle of your location and you hold your hand up and out in front of you so that you can look at your palm. Then you start to turn on the spot allowing your palm to be hit by the light from all directions as you turn.

As you turn, you study, and I really mean study, your palm. In particular, you are examining the brightness of your skin and the lines on your palm. We all have them. Those creases in your palm will help you to find the light.

But how?

Well, when the skin on your palm is bright and the creases appear to be at their flattest (with no shadows), this means you have found your ‘front light’. You have found the direction your light is coming from. Although diffused, front light can be lovely for portraits, it is generally considered quite a boring light to shoot most other subjects in. It can give your photographs a bit of a ‘snapshot’ feel.

Time to look for some shadows…

The lines will appear most visible when they are casting the most shadow. This will make your palm look textured and you will be able to see even the thinnest and smallest of lines that you couldn’t see when it was being hit by front light. When this happens, you have found your ‘side light’. This is the light you want to shoot with if you want contrast and depth to your image.

When your palm is darkest and the lines are flat – you have found ‘back light’. The light is coming from behind and might give you a nice glow around whatever it is that you are shooting. However, with this back light you will have to consider ways of lighting your subject from the front or side. A little touch of flash or a reflector may be necessary.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/definitepossibilities/6565181101/

If your palm looks the same to you as you turn around the full 360 degrees – you have found pretty drab light and I would say that it is time to move on!

You want to see a difference as you move around.

This is a great thing to do on a regular basis. It will take some practice and experience to hone your eye. It still amazes me how light can completely change the way something as simple as the palm of a hand can look.

Try it and let me know how you get on!

Remember – if you want to learn more about using window light in three different ways you can watch the webinar at www.windowlightwebinar.com.

The post How to find the right light for your photography – using just your hand! Ep.40 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 10 2016

11mins

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Use this tip to find the best light for your portrait photography! Ep.39

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Use this tip to find the best light for your portrait photography!

Today I am going to give you a simple tip for how to find the best light for your portrait photography. It’s a quick and easy technique and I use it all the time with great success!

This post started out life as a podcast episode but if you prefer to read – fill your boots!

How light can make the face look is truly amazing to me. It can make the face look radiant, menacing, thoughtful, mysterious, forlorn, peaceful (the list goes on…)

Think about the lighting used in films. The cinematographer carefully uses light to reflect the mood of the scene. Think of a gritty, ominous scene from a thriller in which the lead character is finally being exposed as a psychotic killer. You can almost bet that the light will be low and cool in colour. It will most likely be hitting the scene from the sides to create lots of shadows and contrast on our character’s face making them look dangerous and terrifying.

https://fanart.tv/movie/11324/shutter-island/

Then switch that scene in your head to one from an upbeat teen movie where the two lead characters are enjoying a fun day out together. You can almost bet that the light used will be bright, warm and fresh. It will most likely be hitting our characters from the front so that our characters’ faces are evenly lit and glowing with happiness.

https://www.slashfilm.com/bring-it-on-sequel/

We actually just recently published a blog post about films to watch to improve your photography. You should definitely check it out!

As a people photographer I REALLY notice how the light falls on someone’s face. In fact, it is has become an obsessive habit that I just can’t switch off!

Sometimes I am so engrossed in the way someone’s face is lit that I lose track of what they are actually saying to me.

Or a complete stranger catches me staring at them across the room! Sometimes I am looking and just loving what the light is doing to their face but often I am looking and wishing I could turn them this way or that way to improve the light they are bathed in. It is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it has led me to an understanding of light and faces, and a curse because I can come across as rude if I don’t seem to be listening (or a stalker if I am staring at someone I don’t even know!!!)

If you photograph people I am going to stick my neck out here and tell you that I don’t think there is anything more important than understanding the impact of light on the human face.

Let me talk you through exactly the process I go through when I am trying to find a spot to photograph someone in.

Firstly I always talk to my subject about what I am doing. I ask for their patience whilst I find the perfect light. In my early days I used to feel so rushed at the beginning of a shoot. I felt that I couldn’t keep people hanging around and I couldn’t drag them all over a location until I found ‘my light’. All too often I ended up settling on a spot that was far from ideal. I would quickly realise after taking a few shots that the light wasn’t right but I would feel too embarrassed to say anything. So I would take a whole load of photographs knowing that they would disappoint me and I would have to do a lot of work to them in photoshop afterwards.

Nowadays I have learned my lesson – I will never do that again! I take my time to carefully find good light. I don’t think twice about asking my subjects to move to a different location. If it takes me 20-30 minutes to find a place to take photographs in, then so be it. As long as you are chatting along the way and the weather isn’t horrific then your subjects will not mind. They want to look good in these photographs!

When you take your time and talk to them about what you are doing they will have absolute trust in your skill and abilities. You will seem more confident in their eyes – not less!

Whenever I feel that I have found a nice bit of light I ask my subject to stand in it (if your subject is a young child – do this with an adult first and just let them play or run around). Now you might think you know exactly where the best light is coming from, you might think you know what colour it is and how strong it is.

But no matter how much you think you know, light can surprise you.

You might think your best light is coming from the edge of the woods when, in actual fact, the quality of light coming from the clearing in the trees behind your subject is far superior.

But how will you know? How can you be sure that you have found the best light? Here is what I do;

I ask my subject to stand in the light and I stand directly in front of them. I tell them that I am going to start walking slowly around them in a circle. I ask them to turn slowly on the spot so that they are always facing me.

As my subject turns I absolutely examine their face. I look at what the light is doing to them. I like to have a starting point and my starting point is to find even, front light for my subject. That simply means that the light is hitting them from the front. A good example of this is light from one window in a room or the light coming in from the edge of open shade or even the light from a setting sun.

I am not just looking for front light though. I am looking for good front light.

But how will you know it is good?

When good front light is hitting your subject from the front, their face will quite literally ‘light up’! Their skin will be light and bright and there will be minimal shadows on their face. It is often referred to as flat light because the lack of shadows has a flattening effect. Flat light can be quite boring in other genres of photography but it works for portraits if you want to beautify your subject. Let’s face it, we all want to appear even and flawless don’t we? This front light minimises wrinkles and blemishes and softens features. It is also super-simple for photographers to work with because the light hitting the face is consistent, making the exposure all over the face very similar and easy to find.

When good light is hitting your subject from the front you will also see their eyes light up. The skin around the eyes will not be in shadow and there will be twinkling catch lights in the iris. The importance of these catch lights in the eyes just can’t be overemphasised and I am going to be talking about that in more depth next week.

I want to be able to see a huge difference in the light on their face as they turn. If I turn my subject around and there is not a great deal of difference in the way their face is lit as we turn then I am going to move on. That is not great light to work with. It probably means the light is coming mainly from the top. This is usually because I am out in the open when the sun is very high in the sky or it is just a very cloudy day and there is no direction to the light. It is just coming from the sky and it is flat and dull. Or it might mean that I have found a spot in the shade that just isn’t getting enough light to give me that illuminating effect I am looking for.

When I see their face light up, bright and fresh with gorgeous catch lights in the eyes I know I have found my front light. I don’t stop though! I make sure I turn the whole 360 degrees with them because you just never know. There might be something even better. Make sure you do the full turn!

It goes without saying, I hope, that your background will have to be right. It’s no good finding beautiful front light to work with and then realizing that you have an ugly backdrop. That is a whole other episode though so stay tuned for my background episode coming up soon!

Finding that illuminating, flattering front light is my first step. Once I find that I always take a few shots using it. These are straightforward, evenly lit portraits. Some would call them ‘safe shots’ because they are easy to expose for, easy to capture and your subject will love them. They will be the best versions of themselves in that light. Fresh-faced, twinkly eyes, flawless skin – what’s not to love?

However, it certainly doesn’t stop there. Once you have found your light, keep your subject in it. I usually keep my subject facing that general direction with just subtle turns to each side. I then move around them looking for new angles.

I look for the shadows and I consider how strong they are and where they are falling. Some shadows are ugly, such as dark shadows falling under or all around someone’s eyes or a deep shadow under someone’s nose (making it look bigger). No one is going to thank you for capturing those. Some shadows engulf your subject’s whole face and their catch lights will disappear completely. Get out of that light asap!

However, some shadows are beautiful and add stunning contours to the face. If you are wondering how you will know which are ugly and which are beautiful, you simply have to look.

When I say look, I mean really look. It is truly amazing what you see when you really look.

A mistake that so many learner photographers make is to change their exposure as they move around their subject. They see that there are more shadows and they assume that they need to increase their exposure to compensate.

The thing is, your subject is in the same light, it is just you who has moved. If you have moved to capture more shadows then you need to make sure that these are evident in your photograph. Your exposure shouldn’t change.

This is something I am going to be talking you through in much more detail during Tuesday’s live webinar which is all about using the light from one window in three different ways. So if you would like to get a much deeper understanding of this concept then make sure you register. It is happening at 8pm (GMT) on Tuesday 8th March and it is entirely free to join.

This webinar has taken place now but you CAN watch the recording right here.

I really hope you can make it – I am so excited about it!

So there it is – turning with your subject – how simple is that? Next time you are doing some portraits, take time to do that turn and find that light. This simple tip will transform your people photography and will get you well on your way to a much better understanding of light.

I know that you won’t always be photographing people. If you are wondering if there is a tip for finding the light when you don’t have a person with you and you are photographing something else, the answer is, yes there is!

I am going to share it with you next week so please tune in!

The post Use this tip to find the best light for your portrait photography! Ep.39 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 04 2016

21mins

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Using leading lines in photography – Composition Series – Ep. 38

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Using leading lines in photography

Today is part three of my Composition Series and I am talking about using leading lines in photography. These lines are everywhere if you just open your eyes to them and, used well, they can elevate your image to a new level. But how do you use them well?

As always, this originated as a podcast episode but if you would rather read, we have catered for you too!

Let’s think about what makes you fall in love with an image. Or even just what makes you look at an image for longer than you usually would. For me, that is when I know I have created something worthwhile. If someone looks at my image for a little longer than is normal then I am happy. That certainly doesn’t always mean that they love it – they might be trying to work it out or they might even hate it. But the fact is, they are looking. It has grabbed them in some way.

They are consuming the image rather than just breezing over it. For me that is a win.

But what makes someone stay and look for longer? Of course, the subject matter can play a huge part in this. If the subject itself is extraordinary or the scene captured is unusual then the impact of these alone might be enough to stop the viewer in her tracks and encourage her to examine the photograph more closely. However, more often than not, we are photographing pretty standard subjects and scenes. In these scenarios it is how we photograph these ‘standard’ subjects that makes our viewers decide whether to just glance over or whether to stay and study our creation for a little longer.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather they did the latter…

We have already discussed the use of the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. We have also delved into the wonders of foreground. Using these well can certainly encourage your viewer to stay around for a while and drink your image in.

I am always encouraging the photographers I teach to think of themselves as storytellers. When you take a snapshot you simply capture what is in front of you with no real artistic intent. Most snapshots don’t require much of the viewer. You can look at any part of it you choose or just take it all in as one and it probably won’t evoke much in the way of reaction or feeling.

As a photographer you don’t want that! Anyone can take a snapshot. You want to take your viewer on a journey. You want to tell them a story.

To tell them that story you must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The only way to do this in photography is through clever composition.

If you compose your image with some thought and consideration, you are effectively showing your viewer around your scene. They will begin at the place where you wanted them to start and they will travel through, looking at everything you intended for them to see before finally leaving the image at the point where you meant them to finish up. If you manage that – you are certainly onto something!

Using leading lines is a fabulous way of doing this. A leading line in a photograph directs your attention to the subject or to the heart of a scene or even sometimes towards infinity (when you can’t actually see the end of the line). Generally it will start at, or near, the bottom of the frame and it leads your eye to where it matters. Leading lines can be straight, wavy or jagged and they don’t have to be singular. They can be several lines working together.

And let me tell you something, once you open your eyes and your mind to leading lines you will see them EVERYWHERE YOU GO!

Paths, roads, bridges and staircases

These are the most obvious leading lines, but just because they are obvious it doesn’t make them less effective. I use them all the time. These are lines you actually use to travel in real life. They go somewhere so your eyes can’t help but follow them. Often you can’t actually see where they end in a photograph meaning you can really get lost in an image that uses them well. These leading lines can be the main element of the scene or they can be used as a setting for your main subject.

Railings, walls and fences

These are everywhere – so use them! You can ask your subject to lean against them whilst you shoot along or you can use them to lead up to a stationary subject in the distance. Often it is not just the wall or fence itself that is leading, the elements that make it up can also ‘lead’. For example, brickwork or stonework lines or wooden slats can all lead to the heart of your scene too.

Long grass, trees, foliage

Not so obvious perhaps but super-effective. Long grass blowing in the wind can make gorgeous leading lines full of texture. Rows of trees or foliage can also work to bring the eye inwards. You might have to look a little harder for these but when you start seeing them you won’t be able to stop.

Rows

Rows of anything. Buildings, flowers, crops, gravestones, street lights, pillars, cars, bicycles, condiments, crockery, boats, bottles, books, candles, street wares, people, hay bales, chairs. You could make an interesting photograph from almost any row. Look for them and try to photograph them in as many different ways as possible.

https://www.mrwallpaper.com

Light

Light creates leading lines too and the magical thing about leading lines made from light is that they appear, disappear and change before your very eyes. Long shadows cast across the ground, light trails from car headlights and rays of sun shining into a room can lead the eye in the same way as more ‘physical’ lines can.

Sky and Water

Clouds often end up in formations that make fantastic leading lines and, used well, can lead the viewer’s eye towards infinity or towards a spectacular sunset, cityscape or landscape. Equally, a beautiful shoreline or dramatic waves in the ocean can’t help but invite the eye to follow. Make sure that it is worth the journey!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/amazingsky/19199122758

https://500px.com/photo/4274440/incoming-tide-by-peter-bolman

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Almost anything can become a leading line given the right perspective and some creativity.

Open your eyes to these opportunities. Make it your goal to find as many leading lines in one day as you possibly can. Activities like this truly help you to hone your creative eye.

Do you have any ‘leading lines’ you can add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Don’t forget to sign up for my FREE live webinar. It is happening on Tuesday 8th March at 8pm. I will be talking you through the three completely different ways you can use the light from just one window in your natural light people photography.

This has passed now but you CAN watch the recording right here.

The post Using leading lines in photography – Composition Series – Ep. 38 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Mar 02 2016

15mins

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Beware of Keyboard Warrior Critics – Ep.37

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Beware of the Keyboard Warrior Critics

Today I am discussing people who seem to enjoy giving scathing critique to learner photographers whilst hiding behind their computer screens. You know who I am talking about, right? Those keyboard warriors who have forgotten that they too started somewhere!

I didn’t actually plan this show but I got up this morning and as I was waiting for the kettle to boil I browsed through the feed of one of the Facebook photography groups I belong to. It is a group made up of photographers of all ability levels from beginners to professionals.

It is a large group and people post there about all sorts of things. There are discussions about hot topics, equipment and training but, as with most groups like this, people are mainly posting their images. Some are just sharing and others are specifically asking for critique or they have a particular question.

What I saw this morning was typical of this group and a great many other photography groups on Facebook. Someone who was quite clearly a beginner had posted an image they had captured that day and asked for advice on what they could have done to avoid the overexposed highlights in the scene.

Well, the comments that followed really made me feel very sad indeed.

People pointing out that there was much more to worry about in this image than blown out highlights and then listing everything that was ‘wrong’ with it. Others were even making jokes at this poor learner’s expense. Someone sarcastically commented that he bet this person ‘was getting prepared to shoot their first wedding at the weekend’.

In amongst these unpleasant comments were lots of attempts at help and advice. Others who saw the post for what it was – someone at the very beginning of their photography journey, putting themselves out there in an attempt to learn from others. These people were giving him answers to his question and they were pitching it at the level he was so clearly at.

But, as a human being, which of these comments is he going to be thinking all day? Which of these comments are going to be running through his head as he tries to sleep tonight?

https://cliparts.co/cartoon-images-man

We just can’t help focusing on the negative comments people make about us can we?

Why do some people forget so quickly what it is like to learn something new? Not just photography either! For example, maybe you were a natural when it came to learning photography and you took it all in your stride. Everything came easy and you progressed fast. You have a God-given gift for composition and light. Lucky you! It can be difficult to understand why others find it much more of a struggle because you didn’t experience that yourself.

However, maybe you then decide to learn how to cook. You have never been great in the kitchen so you are a real beginner ‘chef’. You buy a few books and you watch a few YouTube videos. You start following celebrity chefs and trying dishes out but you are finding it a lot harder than you thought. You start out by making some meals for friends and family. What if, even though they knew this was a very new interest of yours, they spat out the food you had made for them and proceeded to rip every element of it apart in the way that a restaurant critic would critique an established chef?

But you are not an established chef! You are just starting out. You are experimenting and practicing and asking for people to help you. What you wanted was some feedback based on your level of experience and what you got was critique that you probably didn’t even understand. How likely are you to continue to pursue this new interest? And what a shame! You could have been great given time and lots of practice!

What right does someone have to put a spanner in the works when it comes to someone pursuing an interest, or even a passion?

But do you know what? The scenario I have just described with the food wouldn’t happen. Do you know why it wouldn’t happen? Because these fierce critics are not brave enough to do this in person. They like to hide behind their computer screens and dish out nasty, unhelpful, sarcastic comments which serve no purpose but to make the person on the receiving end feel horrible.

Comments like these are enough to make someone give up. We are not all strong enough to take that kind of criticism. Most of us are far too quick to believe that we are not good enough because, unfortunately, most of think that about ourselves anyway!

https://goingglocal.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/keyboard-gangsters/

I am all for people giving critique.

Critique is so important, not just when you are beginning but all the way through your journey. I still ask for critique from others and I always will.

But critique should be carefully pitched according to the level of ability the photographer who is asking for it has. It is not helpful to rhyme off every single thing that is wrong. Starting with just a couple of basic things they could work on is all that is required at this stage.

And as for making fun of someone who is asking for advice. Well there really are no words for that.

So this thread I read through this morning got me thinking about these keyboard warrior critics again, which is unfortunate because I would rather not give them a moment of my time. But it’s hard isn’t it? It’s hard to see people behave like that and move on with your day without thinking about how spiteful they are and wondering why they feel it is acceptable?

There was a time when I used to jump in on a thread like that and call them out on their behaviour, but not now.

Honestly, these keyboard warriors just need to be ignored. Biting back doesn’t work nor does gently trying to help them see the error of their ways. Generally they are just unhappy, bitter little people who get a kick out of making people feel bad.

Don’t give them the satisfaction of a reply and don’t let them know that they have affected you in any way.

More often than not, they are not great photographers and they are probably not at all confident in their own work.

I find that the best photographers are actually the most helpful, the most encouraging and the most inspiring people. Listen the THEM – not these faceless critics!

Just a short one today folks – let me know in the comments if you have any experience of this. I would love to know your thoughts!

J

P.S. Don’t forget to join the Tea Break Tog VIP list – check out why here!

The post Beware of Keyboard Warrior Critics – Ep.37 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 26 2016

10mins

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6 Reasons to Master Natural Light Before Flash – Ep.36

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6 Reasons to Master Natural Light Before Flash

Today I’m talking about natural light and why I believe you really MUST become confident working with it before learning about flash photography. Flash is fabulous and good flash photographers are geniuses, they really are! But you can bet they understood natural light well in order to become so skilled with a flash. That’s the subject for today’s episode.

First though, I sent a quick email out on Thursday asking you a question. Did you get it? If you are not on my email list then you would not have received it, of course. But if you would like to be then you can sign up right here.

In my email I asked you which of these you wanted to learn more about; using lightroom, using photoshop, photographing children or mastering natural light.

I asked you this because I am working on my next premium course for you guys. It’s been a couple of months since I launched the manual exposure masterclass and I want to make sure I have something new and exciting for you to get your teeth into every few months. I had actually started work on a Lightroom course for beginners and it suddenly hit me that I was presuming to know what you actually want – I hadn’t actually asked! That’s when I decided to just reach out and ask the question.

Well I was REALLY glad I asked! Some of you did want to learn more about lightroom, however, an overwhelming majority of you told me that, above everything else, you want to learn how to master natural light! Lightroom was the least popular choice!

I was working on the wrong course.

Honestly though, I was delighted to get this result. Natural light is my ‘thing’. It is what I love to use in my photography and it is what I love to teach. I am so happy that it is the one thing you guys want to learn more about.

So work has started in earnest on the ‘Master Natural Light’ course. I have planned it all out and filming starts tomorrow (this course is going to be a video course – it just has to be visual, this one!) I am so excited about it. I am going to let you see exactly what I do with all sorts of natural light both indoors and outdoors and I am going to help you take your photography to a whole new level, even with entry-level gear. That is all you will need for this.

I have, just this morning, opened up a VIP list ahead of the natural light course. If you are on the VIP list you will get preview access to the first video in the course absolutely FREE of charge so you can try it out for size. You will also, of course, hear all of the details first. If you would like to join the VIP list simply click here to sign up.

But why should you learn to master natural light before moving into the world of flash photography?

What is the harm in doing a bit of both right from the beginning? Variety is the spice of life after all! Well I truly believe you actually can hinder your journey by moving towards flash too quickly. I have seen it happen. It is just my opinion so feel free to disagree after hearing everything I have to say – I am always up for a nice, healthy debate!

I have the utmost respect for skilled flash photographers. It is not something I am knowledgeable about at all. This year I am determined to progress my flash photography and I am really looking forward to getting to grips with it more. However, I am also glad that I have really honed my craft in natural light first.

Before I tell you why I think this is so important, I want to make it clear I am not talking about switching your camera to auto and allowing your on-camera flash to pop up. When I say ‘flash photography’ I am talking about additional flash units that you can use both on and off your camera. Flash photographers rarely, if ever, use their on-camera flash. No one wants to nuke their scene with that direct, white light unless they absolutely have to. More about that another time…

  1. Natural light is easier on the bank balance and the back

You don’t need anything but a camera and a lens to begin working with natural light and creating beautiful images. The minute you start getting into flash you need to dip into that pocket of yours to purchase speedlights, stands, softboxes, remote triggers and batteries (and that is a small list…) And let’s not forget about your poor body! Lugging around your own body weight in kit does nothing for the posture you know…

What if you don’t stick with photography? Lots of people don’t, let’s face it. Make sure this is a passion you are going to pursue before buying even more gear! I am constantly encouraging the learners I work with to buy as little as possible to begin with. Get to know each piece of kit really well before adding another item to the list. You won’t regret it.

  1. You have enough to think about in terms of settings

When you are first learning, your head is literally full to bursting with settings and dials and buttons. And that is just on your camera. Try adding more to that! A speedlight comes with its own settings and your camera has to be able to communicate with it.

A confused mind says no.

That is a saying that has always stuck with me. It applies to everything in life. If there is too much on a menu at a restaurant we get stressed about choosing. If a business has too many packages we end up seeking something simpler elsewhere. If you mind becomes overwhelmed it switches off. This is why you should take your photography one step at a time. Make it your goal to learn just one thing before moving on to another. Those who ignore this advice take on too much and end up giving up on their hobby very quickly.

Remember, a confused mind says no!

  1. Natural light encourages you to look and move!

If you are only using natural light then you have no choice but to open your eyes to the environment you are in. You must look around for the light that is going to serve you best. You are forced to examine that light – which direction is it coming from? What colour is it? How strong is it? Is it good enough for what you want to create? How can you manipulate it?

You will also be forced to move around your scene. Magic things happen when you move around. You start seeing other opportunities for photographs. You might end up capturing something that you had no intention of creating when you first started. Every minute you spend walking around looking at light and looking for light is not a minute wasted. It is all part of your light education and I truly believe that learning all about light is a life-long commitment!

Going through this stage will mean that when you do finally embrace the wonder of flash photography you will have a solid grasp of seeing and using light already. Skills in flash will come easy and fast.

  1. Natural light is changeable and challenging!

Sure, flash photography can be technically challenging to master but nothing challenges you like changeable, natural light. Depending on the weather, your light can change every couple of minutes. You can go from shooting in strong, direct, warm light to flat, diffused, cool light all in the time it takes for the sun to disappear behind a dark cloud!

Embrace challenges like this and watch how fast you will progress! Your brain has to work as fast as that light is changing. Where is the light best now? What can you do with this new light that will enhance your subject? What doesn’t look so good in this light? What looks better in this light? You become adaptable and more creative. You think on your feet and you see things that a photographer, dependent on flash, may not see.

  1. You won’t RELY on your lights

I know photographers who moved to using flash too quickly and without a solid grasp of natural light, and do you know what? Take their speed lights and their studio lights away from them and they are lost! They didn’t spend enough time mastering the wonderful thing that is natural light first and they have become dependent on adding artificial light.

I only think this happens to photographers who were too hasty in moving to flash. I find that they are unable to truly ‘see’ natural light. They ‘think in flash’ and they miss beautiful opportunities. Or they use lots of kit to take a photograph that could have been recreated easily with natural light if only they had looked around a little and thought differently.

  1. Become skilled with natural light first and you will ACE it with flash

You might be fooled into thinking that I am scornful of flash after that list but that couldn’t be further from the truth! I know and follow lots of photographers who work wonders with flash. Honestly I can only drop my jaw in awe at the work they produce. I am not skilled with flash but I do have a speedlight which I use off-camera now and again and I also use an LED lamp to add subltle light to scenes, especially in my boudoir photography.

Because sometimes natural light just won’t do, no matter how skilled you are with it! Wedding photographers, for example, absolutely must have knowledge and understanding of flash photography. They might turn up to a dark venue on a dark day and let’s face it, if they don’t have decent flash kit and some good flash skills then there is going to be one very disappointed bride later on when she casts her eye upon all of those dark, grainy and blurry images!

Flash isn’t just for when there isn’t enough natural light though. It is often used for sheer creativity. Using flash can make a scene look nothing at all like it does in real life. It can take a scene from average to phenomenal in the right hands.

So yes, get to grips with flash if you want to.

Just make sure you make it happen with natural light first. You will find the learning process much easier, quicker and smoother if you do. Once you understand natural light, you understand any type of light. The hard part is over. You will also always be able to move between both with ease. You will know when to make use of beautiful, natural light and you will know what to do when it isn’t enough.

So there you have it – these are all the reasons why I think you should pursue a sound grasp of natural light before playing with flash. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments or on social media. You know I always appreciate hearing from you!

Don’t forget, if you want to be in that VIP list for my upcoming ‘Master Natural Light’ course then sign up right here.

The post 6 Reasons to Master Natural Light Before Flash – Ep.36 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 23 2016

20mins

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How to hold your camera for sharpness – Photography for Beginners Series – Ep.35

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How to hold your camera for sharpness – Photography for Beginners Series

This episode goes right back to basics! Do you know how to hold your camera for sharpness? That’s what is on the agenda today. Not just how to hold that camera of yours but also how to stand or crouch when you are taking photographs. When it comes to your technique, it is all about awareness. I’m going to really help you with this today!

This is a podcast episode – better to listen but, as always, you can read instead if you prefer…

Maybe you are thinking that this is way too basic for you.

You already know how to stand and hold your camera. You don’t need taught how to do this most elementary of things for goodness sake!

Well listen up if that is you. We all fall so easily into bad habits. Think about when you learned to drive and you followed all the guidance on how to place both your hands on the steering wheel at all times and how to feed the wheel between your hands to turn corners.

After you passed your test, how long was it before you had one hand on the wheel and were crossing your arms over each other to turn your car?

We are all guilty of this.

We forget the reasoning behind the most basic things we are taught in life and we end up finding easier, quicker or more comfortable ways.

Sometimes the ways we find are actually better for us or just as good and, if so, happy days. That’s great! However, sometimes the way we end up doing something is actually just lazy, sloppy and ineffective.

That’s all assuming you actually were taught in the first place! Many of you are self-starters and you teach yourselves as you go along. It may well be that you didn’t ever learn how to stand or crouch when you are shooting and how to hold your camera. Maybe you didn’t know that it actually mattered as much as it does. In that case, this episode is a MUST LISTEN!

As many of you know I teach beginner photography workshops every month in Scotland. I see 12 new learners every month and I absolutely love it! The images in this post are from a recent workshop, in fact.

Before I take everyone out in the afternoon for the practical part of the day, I always go over stance and grip. Most of the attendees have already fallen into bad habits just from their experience in automatic mode. They generally have no idea that stance and grip play such a vital role in the sharpness of your images.

And yes, I said VITAL.

Is stance and grip all that matters when it comes to sharpness? Absolutely no way! Hopefully I have made it clear by now that there are many things to consider when it comes to sharp focus in your photography. Your technique is just one of them. But it is an important one and it can be the difference between a sharp image and a blurry one, especially if your shutter speed is on the slow side.

I see photographers all the time with poor shooting technique. I can see the camera moving about as they try to capture beautiful photographs. They ask me why their images are blurry and I ask them;

‘How aware are you of what your body is doing when you are taking a photograph?’

Generally they look at me with a very confused expression. ‘Not very aware at all’ is clearly the answer.

And they are not alone. Most photographers are so caught up in the act of creating images that they just shoot, and shoot, and shoot with no thoughts about what their hands, feet, back and elbows are doing. Sure, they end up with lots of blurry images but their solution to that is just to take loads and loads of shots because they know some will turn out sharp.

The reason I know this is not just because I have worked with hundreds of learners. It’s also because I used to do this too!

But there is a better way, and it’s all about awareness.

Firstly, you must have an awareness of all the ways your body can ruin your attempts at a nice sharp image.

  • If you are wobbly on your feet, your camera will wobble too meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you are not supporting your camera and lens properly with your hands, your camera will move around meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If your elbows are out to the side, it is harder to keep your camera still meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you compose with your camera out in front of you (using your screen instead of your viewfinder), your camera is more likely to sway meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you are out of breath and your chest is rapidly rising and falling, your camera will move with it meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If your hands are shaking then your camera is shaking too meaning you have more chance of camera shake.
  • If you support your camera just with your arms, they will get tired. Tired arms are wobbly arms meaning you have more chance of camera shake.

Sometimes we can’t prevent some of these things occurring. Maybe you are shaky. I have a pretty shaky grip myself. You might have a medical condition that means you have tremors or you are unsteady on your feet. Maybe you are out of breath because of what you are shooting. I photograph children playing a lot. I have to run about all over the place and I am often shooting whilst out of breath.

I am not in any way saying that you can’t shoot a sharp image if you shake or if you wobble or if you are out of breath.

What I am saying is that you have to be aware of the impact all of this can have. If something is causing you to wobble or shake or move a lot and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it then you need to make sure that you make every effort to minimize it as much as you are able to and you need to combat it in other ways that you are in control of such as ensuring your shutter speed is fast enough.

But let’s be honest. Often we are in control of these things. Often there is no reason that you couldn’t keep that camera steadier.

And that is the second part of the awareness you must have. The first is being aware of all the things that can cause your camera to shake and your images to be blurry. The second is having an awareness of what your body is doing the moment before you press the shutter button to capture that image.

Where are your elbows?

They should be firmly pressed in to your body and not out to the side. Why? The closer they are to your body the more stability you will give your camera. The further out to the side your elbows go, the wobblier your camera will become and the more tired your arms will become! Use your whole body to support your camera, not just your arms!

Where is your right hand?

It should be gripping the right side of your camera where your shutter button and exposure dials are. Why? Unfortunately, left-handed cameras are not exactly widely available. There are some but they are few and far between. Trying to reach across with your left hand would cause all sorts of camera wobbles!

If you are a lefty and you are listening to this episode thinking this is all very unfair. You are right! Why on earth are there not left-handed versions of more cameras?

You can have a look online at solutions people have found using adaptors and such. Or you can just accept it and get used to using your right hand.

Where is your left hand?

It should be cradling your lens – underneath the lens and not over the top or to the side. Why? If your left hand is over the top of your lens that means your elbow is out to the side (see above). Believe me the other reason your left hand should be underneath your lens will become very obvious the minute you attach a very long, heavy, telephoto lens to your camera. Those things need support or they will cause you to wobble about something awful…

What is your back doing?

It should be as straight as possible! Why? Your body must help to support your camera. If you are bent over you are allowing your arms to do most of the camera support but at the same time your poor posture will make your back ache later and depending on how much you shoot could lead to serious back problems.

If you need to get lower, bend your knees, rest an elbow on your thigh and keep your back straight. If you need to get super-low, lie down on the ground!

What are your feet doing?

They should be hip distance, or further, apart. Why? The closer your feet are together, the more likely you are to wobble. If the ground is pretty even then hip distance apart will do. If it’s uneven then going for a wider stance is a good idea. Finding a rock or tree stump to place one foot on can really help you get a steady stance on uneven ground.

How are you breathing?

You should try to keep your breathing as even and slow as possible. It is easy to get out of breath when you are shooting though, it happens to me all the time! If you do find that you are puffing a bit, just be aware of it and steady it for each shot. Sometimes if my chest is really heaving from running around I will very briefly hold my breath whilst I press the shutter button to steady myself.

Where is your camera?

Preferably, it should be against your face as you look through your viewfinder. Why? If you hold it out in front of you and use your screen to compose the shot then it is nowhere near as steady as it is pressed against your face. You are leaving your arms to do all the supporting. When it is against your face with your elbows in, your back straight, your feet apart and your hands in the correct position then you are using your entire self to support that camera and keep it still.

I know some cameras don’t have a viewfinder. If you have one like this, just be extra vigilant. Don’t hold it out too far, keep those elbows in, straighten that back and widen that stance. You’ll be fine!

But that is so much to think about! I will never remember all of that!

Yes you will. Like I said, it’s all about awareness. Every time you take a photograph just take a moment to scan your body. It will take only a second.

Even better, go out for a few practice sessions with the sole purpose of improving your stance and grip. Make that the focus of your session.

If you work hard at this awareness for just a short while then it won’t be long until you never have to think about it again. It will be second nature to you.

Are you still thinking that this is all a bit over the top?

Humour me and follow the advice for a few weeks. If you don’t see an increase in the percentage of sharp images after a shoot I will eat my camera bag…

The post How to hold your camera for sharpness – Photography for Beginners Series – Ep.35 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 18 2016

18mins

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How to avoid camera shake at long focal lengths – Ep.34

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How to avoid camera shake at long focal lengths – Ep.34

Today is all about achieving sharpness when handholding your camera and shooting with longer focal lengths. Why should this be any different to shooting with shorter focal lengths and what do you need to know to avoid camera shake at long focal lengths?

Today’s show is probably going to be short and to the point because it is really quite straightforward. But even though it is straightforward it is something that lots of learners I talk to are not aware of so I thought it was a worthwhile podcast topic.

This episode assumes you understand a bit about ‘focal length’. However, don’t worry if you don’t because, guess what? I have you covered in episode 14 so check that out if you would like the ‘101’ on focal length first.

We have addressed sharpness at several points in the podcast. If you follow along then you already know that there are several factors that contribute towards producing a sharp image. Your stance, grip and general shooting technique are super-important (more on that this week) and the autofocus settings you select also play a vital role. However, your shutter speed is absolutely crucial if you are handholding your camera and/or if you are shooting moving subjects.

Your shutter speed has to be faster than anything that is moving in your scene. But it also has to be faster than the speed you are moving at too.

Just the act of breathing can cause camera shake if your shutter speed is too slow. Camera shake = blurry images!

There is a general rule that gets bandied about a lot and that is that you should keep your shutter speed faster than 1/60 sec if you want to avoid camera shake from handholding your camera. Us humans really can’t stay completely still for longer than that (that still kind of blows my mind – I mean, can we really not manage that?!)

However, that is just half the story.

I want you to imagine that you are using a focal length of 50mm. This focal length has a standard angle of view. For those of you using cropped sensor cameras, 35mm will give you a 50mm experience (check out this episode to understand why this is).

When you are using a focal length of 50mm everything looks pretty ‘standard’. Your subjects are going to appear to be about the same distance away from you as they actually are in real life and the amount you see to each side of your subject is also similar to what you see with your eyes.

Imagine you are taking a photograph of a flower in the park and you have managed to get nice and close. It’s a still day so you don’t have to worry about the flower moving. All you have to worry about is your movements. You are looking through your viewfinder at the flower and getting ready to take a photograph. As you do this you are obviously moving a little. We all do, albeit some more than others.

Maybe you have just had a coffee and you have some caffeine jitters.

Well, those jitters won’t be too obvious for this shot. You are probably just moving your camera by a couple of millimetres and it will hardly be noticeable. Let’s say you have exposed for the flower and you have ended up with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. This should be fast enough to allow you to achieve a sharp image of the flower. You should be able to stay still for 1/60 sec.

https://www.freecreatives.com

Now I want you to imagine a different scenario. This time you are in the same park and you want to take a photograph of another flower. But this time it is cherry blossom and it is way up high in a tree. You want to get closer, but since you can’t fly, the only way to do this is to use a longer lens if you have one. So let’s say you switch to a 70-200mm lens and you zoom all the way in to 200mm.

You have now brought that flower much closer to you. You have magnified your scene.

It is vital that you understand that not only have you magnified your scene, you have also magnified your movements! Now when those caffeine jitters cause you to move your camera just a millimetre or two it seems like a whole lot more than that inside your scene. It might appear like you are on a trampoline – it really depends how much of that caffeine you have had! Every movement is magnified meaning you can no longer get away with that shutter speed of 1/60 sec.

You will need a much faster shutter speed with this new focal length. The minimum shutter speed you should now aim for is 1/200 sec.

To get this faster shutter speed you might need to open your aperture wider or increase your ISO. Whatever you do though, you must make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to deal with your magnified movements.

I know what you are thinking­. How will you know if your shutter speed is fast enough?

Well, it just so happens that there is a handy little rule to help you with this.

To avoid camera shake, your minimum shutter speed when handholding your camera should match the focal length you are shooting with.

E.g. If you are shooting at 125mm you shouldn’t let your shutter speed drop below 1/125 sec or if you are shooting at 500mm you shouldn’t let your shutter speed drop below 1/500 sec.

That makes it pretty easy to remember I’d say, however, don’t forget that if you are shooting with a cropped sensor you need to multiply your focal length by around 1.5 to take into consideration the crop factor.

E.g. If you are shooting at 55mm this is actually closer to 80mm which means that you shouldn’t let your shutter speed drop below 1/80 sec. Similarly, if you are shooting at 200mm, this is actually 300mm and you shouldn’t let your shutter speed drop below 1/300sec.

Don’t forget all of this just becomes second nature the more you practice. (There I go again with the practice!)

What about the ‘image stabilisation’ and ‘vibration reduction’ options on lots of lenses these days?

It is important to mention these because these settings are available on most new lenses these days. I certainly have mine switched on all the time.

Switching these on does, in theory, allow you to shoot sharp images at slower shutter speeds. How much slower really depends on your technique and your equipment. Honestly, I try to keep to the ‘tried and tested’ rule I have outlined to you above. I have my vibration reduction switched on but I only rely on it if I really have to. I have a pretty shaky grip (it must be all that coffee!)

Next time I am talking about stance and grip and how much they matter if you want sharpness in your images and I will share with you my top tips to make yourself as stable as possible when you are shooting.

For now, let me know your thoughts on the relationship between minimum shutter speeds and focal lengths. Is this something new to you? If so I hope it will help! If not, do you have anything you can add? As always, I would love to hear from you!

The post How to avoid camera shake at long focal lengths – Ep.34 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 16 2016

15mins

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How to minimise noise at high ISO settings – Ep.33

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How to minimise noise at high ISO settings

Today I am going to tell you why high ISOs don’t always mean more noise and why sometimes you should be increasing your ISO to decrease your digital noise! Confused? Don’t be!

I love today’s episode because this is something I didn’t realise for WAY TOO LONG and those are the tips I love to share the most.

This episode has been born from seeing lots and lots of you struggling with noisy images. Sometimes I look at them and I can quickly see that the noise was inevitable but sometimes I look at them and see that it could have been drastically reduced.

Before I start talking about ISO and noise, there are two things I need to address first. Number one is that I am not going into the basics of ISO here so if you need those first you can find them in episode 5. The second is inextricably linked to almost everything I talk about in this podcast but it is especially relevant today.

What I am talking about is ‘light’.

You can take all the advice given to you about making good use of your camera settings and exposing your images well but it will all mean nothing if you fail to select good light to take your photographs in.

Light, light, light. I can’t talk about it enough. The number one reason for learner photographers being disappointed in their images is that they did not think about or understand the light they were shooting their subject in.

So before I help you with noise reduction and ISO selection I want to make that super clear. If possible, choose great light to work in. If you do that you will have a much easier task when it comes to noise in your images.

However, today’s show is not about teaching you how to recognise good light (although there is some help on that front in episode 26). The purpose of today’s show is to help you understand how to minimise noise in your images when the light you have available is not quite enough for low ISO settings.

Because let’s get real for a moment. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of fabulous light, do you?

For example, you might be taking photographs in a church at a wedding. The light may be terrible but you still want or need to capture those moments! Most churches will not allow you to use flash inside so you have no choice but to increase your ISO and shoot.

Or maybe you have selected decent quality light to work in but there is not an abundance of it. For example, you have chosen to shoot beside a window but it is very overcast outside. You have a nice pool of light by the window but there is not a lot of it.

Remember, just because there isn’t quite enough of the light you are shooting in doesn’t mean it is not ‘good light’. ‘Lots of light’ and ‘good light’ are not the same thing.

If you are confident using flash and you have all the kit – the speedlights, the triggers, the softboxes and the stands – then you can add your own light to most situations. If you are adding your own light then you can afford to keep your ISO lower than those of us who are not.

But there is no getting away from the fact that we all have to raise our ISO at times.

But how do you raise you ISO and keep your image as noise-free as possible?

We need a good scenario for this so I want you to imagine this one;

You have the whole family together for once and you decide to take a big group photograph. It’s freezing cold and windy outside and you have some elderly relatives present so you decide indoors will be best on this occasion. If you have listened to episode 26 then you know that the first step would be to go around the house to find the best light to shoot this in.

Let’s say you find a good area of light in the living room coming from a big window. There is no direct sunlight entering so the light you have found is quite even and no one is going to be squinting. You move a couch into this light because that is where you are going to sit your group for this photograph. You move back to the window and make sure that you are going to be able to fit everything into your frame.

I want you to imagine you have a good crowd so you are going to have some people sitting on the couch, some sitting on the floor at their feet, some to the sides and some at the back. So there is depth to this group portrait and you can’t create a lot of distance between you and them because you are indoors.

You need your depth of field to be right. You definitely won’t get away with a very wide aperture here. In order for you to get everyone in focus you will need to narrow it down a little. All photographers are different but I would probably select an aperture of around f/4 or f/5.6 for such a shot (you might go narrower).

But let me tell you what I would do next. I would not go and start arranging everyone just yet. I would find just one person and ask them to help me get my exposure right. The reason for that is you want everyone sitting around for as little time as possible. You want to get yourself prepared before you have an audience. It just makes sense. I would sit my volunteer pretty central to wherever the group is going to be positioned and I would meter the light from their face.

(If much of this is a foreign language right now, you are the perfect candidate for my FREE ‘Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course – sign up here.)

And here is where it gets interesting…

Before you meter the light in manual mode you need to have selected two of your exposure settings. You have decided on an aperture of f/5.6 so that you have decent enough depth of field to capture everyone in focus. And let’s say you start with an ISO of 800.

N.B. You could start with any ISO you want but it is a good idea to use your common sense. If you are indoors with just window light to use and you are not shooting with a wide-open aperture then the chances are, a low ISO of 100 is not going to be possible for this shot.

So all that is left is to spot meter the light from your test subject’s face to find the shutter speed you are going to need to expose this photograph. Let’s say you do this and your light meter tells you that to expose this you will need a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. You take a shot with these settings and you are very happy with the exposure.

However, you know that in a group shot there is always going to be someone moving, right?, especially if kids are involved. So you decide that you would prefer a faster shutter speed than 1/60.

Let’s think about the choices available to you.

You need a faster shutter speed which is going to let in less light so you need to increase the light in another way. You could widen the aperture to allow more light to enter but, remember, you need that depth of field so that everyone is in focus. So widening the aperture is not an option.

The second option is to increase your ISO and make your camera sensor more sensitive to the light. Let’s say the next ISO setting on your camera is ISO 1600.

But you are just not happy with the idea of ISO 1600. You know that by increasing your ISO you are increasing the noise in your image and you don’t want that.

So you think to yourself, to get around increasing my ISO I will just shoot this with a faster shutter speed but keep the ISO the same! This means that the photograph will be a bit underexposed but I can lighten it up on my computer later and I will have kept the digital noise to a minimum.

Seems reasonable, right?

Have you ever done that? Have you ever deliberately underexposed an image so that you can keep the ISO down and decrease noise?

Here is why it simply doesn’t work like that.

Noise doesn’t just come from increasing your ISO. It comes from lack of light. And in fact, lack of light creates more noise!

So, in the scenario I have just described, if you decided to keep your ISO low and shoot the image darker (with a view to increasing the exposure using your editing software later) then you would find that there would be more noise in the dark areas of your image than there would have been had you increased your ISO to 1600 and exposed your scene properly.

Take a look at the images of my son below taken just after sunset so it was getting dark.

The thing about ISO is that as long as you have enough light getting to your sensor then your digital noise will be minimal.

Don’t take my word for it though, try it out for yourself. Choose an area of good light and compose a scene in it. E.g. outdoors in open shade or indoors next to a very large window. Expose the scene with the lowest ISO possible and then gradually increase your ISO right up (you will, of course, have to balance the light by increasing your shutter speed or narrowing your aperture as you do this). You will see that, as long as you are correctly exposed, the noise, even at high ISO settings, is minimal.

Then do the same again, but this time underexpose each time. As soon as you reduce the light like this the noise becomes so much more apparent and unsightly.

What I want you to take from this is not to be afraid to ramp up your ISO. Allow your sensor to receive the maximum light it needs – don’t hold any back just to keep your ISO low because high ISO settings is only one part of digital noise. Lack of light is the main culprit.

Embrace your camera’s ability to increase light sensitivity – it’s a fantastic thing!

I’d love to hear from you. Have you been guilty of keeping your ISO as low as possible to avoid noise, even if it meant underexposing slightly? I know I have!

Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on Facebook or twitter about today’s topic.

The post How to minimise noise at high ISO settings – Ep.33 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 12 2016

18mins

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5 tips for sharp images at wide apertures – Ep.32

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5 tips for sharp images at wide apertures

Today is all about how to achieve sharp images at wide apertures, especially with people. I am going to give you my top tips as this is something I do – a lot!

Here we are in episode 32! I just want to take a moment to give a shout out to a couple of people. First is Dave Bird who sent my a really kind message on facebook yesterday after listening to episode 30 on blurry backgrounds. He then left me a lovely review on Stitcher. Much appreciated Dave – thank you so much for listening.

Also a big hello to Bill Hoggard and Jane Myers who also both got in touch yesterday via email to introduce themselves. They have both joined my Auto to Manual course and are rearing to get started. If you would like to join too – it’s totally free and you can find it at www.autotomanual.com!

In episode 30 I zoned right in on how to achieve that blurry background and/or foreground in your photography. I hope it helped you to understand that there is so much more to this than opening your aperture wide. Focal length and distance matter too – maybe more!

So let’s say you are taking photographs of kids and you are after that smooth, creamy background blur. You know the look I mean right? So you now know that to really achieve that particular look you need to place your subjects a good distance away from their background, move close in to them, select a slightly longer focal length (my favourite is 85mm) and open your aperture wide.

So you do all of that. You are ready to shoot but you are going to have a very shallow depth of field. Remember that simply means that you have a very small section of your scene, from front to back, that is going to be in sharp focus.

If you have such a small section of your scene that is going to be in sharp focus, how do you make sure that all the parts of this image you want to be sharp, will actually be sharp?

Surely the margin for error with this shooting style is huge?

Well not if you know what you are doing. I am going to share my top tips with you. You will soon be shooting wide open even with groups of people and confident about the sharpness of your final images. Just wait!

  1. Glass makes a difference

Have you heard photographers talk about ‘good glass’? What they are talking about is high quality lenses. Lenses are much more important than camera bodies when it comes to sharpness.

I hate to talk too much about expensive equipment because I know that most learners simply can’t justify spending four figures on a lens. However, it is important to mention that when it comes to creating sharp images at very wide apertures, the lens you use definitely makes a difference.

I have two 50mm lenses. I have my 50mm 1.8D which cost around £90 and my son and I use that with a Nikon D80. What a great little duo that is!

However, I also have the Nikon 50mm 1.4G which cost four times as much when I purchased it a few years back. I use that with my Nikon D700. The thing is, I rarely use that lens at f/1.4! I am more often shooting around f/2.

So why not just use my 50mm 1.8? Why do I even need the 1.4?

Because the 1.4 doesn’t just open wider, the glass and build quality is far superior to the 1.8 and you will notice a difference, especially when shooting at wide apertures.

I don’t tell you this to encourage you to go out and buy an expensive lens. Not at all! Your very reasonably priced nifty fifty lens will produce gorgeous, sharp images for you. But it will be softer at very wide apertures than it’s more expensive counterparts.

So if you want a very shallow depth of field with a cheaper lens but you still want your subject to be pin sharp – don’t open the lens to it’s widest aperture of f/1.8. Go for something a little bit narrower like f/2.2 to f/2.8 then use distance and focal length to blur out that background more.

Check out this episode for more on this

  1. Make sure those eyes are level for close-up shots

If you are taking a close-up headshot of one person with a very shallow depth of field you need to be super careful.

Why? Because if the sharp section of your scene from front to back is very thin then it is easy to end up with softness in your image – in places where you don’t want it!

Imagine this close-up shot if you can. You have purposefully given yourself a very shallow depth of field to work with so that you can achieve a blurry background which doesn’t distract from your subject. What if your subject was not quite looking at you straight on? Let’s say they have turned their head just slightly around to the side.

If you focus on the nearest eye (see number 4) it will be contained within your depth of field but the other may have moved out of it. That’s how shallow your area of sharp focus might be when you are taking a shot like this! That other eye won’t be in focus and in a close-up, that matters!

What is the solution? Make sure both eyes are level (easier said than done with kids, I know, but just take lots and you will manage one or two at least!)

If you increase your distance from your subject but keep the same settings, your depth of field increases too. You now have a much greater section of sharpness even though your aperture, focal length and all your other settings have remained the same. You now have the whole of your subject in the frame and you can be much less crazy about eyes being level because the entire body is probably now contained within your depth of field.

  1. Make sure people are level with each other in group shots

Someone taught me years ago that I should narrow down my aperture as I add more people to my group shots. They told me that I should match my aperture number to the number of people in my shot.

Please believe me when I tell you this is absolute nonsense.

There is no reason whatsoever why you can’t capture a group with a wide aperture if you want to. I do it all the time. As long as you know how to do it – you will manage to capture everyone in a nice sharp image.

But first of all, make sure you are using a wide aperture for a group shot for good reason. Don’t do it just because you can. There are times when a blurred out background can look great for groups, especially families. I do this all the time. However, there are also times when this just wouldn’t make sense. Treat every situation separately.

But let’s say you do want a blurry background in your group shot. Just like with the eyes in the close-up portrait, it is all about keeping your group in line with each other.

Depth of field is about ‘front to back’ not ‘side to side’. So, for example, if you are shooting with a very shallow depth of field and you have a family of four sitting on four different steps all at different distances from your camera – they won’t all be in focus. The person you focused on will be sharp but the others will be softer depending on how far back or forward they are from that person.

In theory, you could keep all of your settings the same and then move much further back. This would increase your depth of field and you might then get them all sharp. However, why bother? If you set up a group on a set of stairs and you want them all to be sharp – just narrow down your aperture. A shallow depth of field is not required!

I shoot family groups of 4, 5 and 6 at f/2 regularly. I get a little bit of distance so I can fit them all in and this gives me more than enough depth of field to contain them in as long as they are close and pretty level with each other. Opening my aperture like this also allows me to get a nice fast shutter speed meaning I can get them to interact and play and I am pretty confident that their movement want cause motion blur.

  1. Focus where it matters

If you are trying to focus and recompose with people and a very shallow depth of field – good luck to you. The best way to focus in these scenarios is with single point or dynamic focus (Nikon) or manual selection (Canon). Move your focus point to exactly where you want maximum sharpness.

This matters much more the closer you are to your subject. For a close-up portrait the sharpest part of that image should be the eyes. So move your focus point to the nearest eye. If they are level then it doesn’t matter which eye you choose. If your depth of field is very shallow and you focus on the nose – bang go those eyes and bang goes your portrait.

Try back button focusing too – if you persevere you won’t go back!

If you are shooting groups with a wide aperture and a shallow depth of field then don’t get yourself in too much of a tizz about where to focus. If you are closer then focus on the face of the middle person or where two middle people are touching. If you are further away you can worry even less. Just focus on someone!

  1. Good stance and grip is vital

How steady you hold that camera is so supremely important! I see beginners all the time wobbling their equipment about all over the place and then wondering why their image is blurry.

Think about your stance and your grip every single time you take a photograph and then eventually it will become second nature. Just pause for a second each time and examine your technique. Then pull it all in and take the shot.

Whilst you are honing this – take double shots. I used to do this all the time when I was shooting with a shallow depth of field. I took two shots. If I missed sharpness on the first I would often manage it on the second. Something to try if you are struggling!

Another tip is to find things to lean against. Anything you can anchor yourself with will help you keep that camera steady and those images sharp!

I hope these tips help you when shooting with a shallow depth of field. There are other things to consider when aiming for sharpness in general – you can read about them here.

For now I would love to hear your thoughts! How do you get on shooting with very wide apertures? Do you have any further tips?

Hit me up on twitter or Facebook and let me know!

The post 5 tips for sharp images at wide apertures – Ep.32 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 10 2016

20mins

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How to use foreground in your composition – Ep.31

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How to use Foreground – Composition in Photography Series

Today we are talking about how to use foreground in your composition. There are so many ways to do this and you will love developing your eye for it!

We are continuing our composition journey together – this is part 3 of my composition series and we are talking foreground! As I was thinking about the content for this show I realised that using foreground is one of my favourite ways to compose an image. Lots of people associate using foreground with landscape photography which I love looking at but don’t take part in. I am a people photographer but I still make use of foreground all the time.

So don’t dismiss this is a landscape technique. If you look around you will see foreground being used across all genres of photography.

But what do I mean when I say foreground? In photography, your foreground is simply the part of your image that is closest to the viewer. It is at the front of your scene. As photographers we think about our background quite carefully. We look for good backgrounds don’t we? Foreground – not so much.

But actually, good use of foreground can often set you apart. Using foreground well in your photography can really take an image from mediocre to fantastic!

Let’s think about what good use of foreground can add to an image…

  1. Depth

Probably the most obvious reason for including foreground in your image is to add depth to the scene. Of course a photograph is two-dimensional but that doesn’t mean it has to feel that way.

I’m sure you have had the pleasure of looking at a photograph and feeling as though you could walk right into it. That feeling comes from the photographer including some foreground, close to you, the viewer.

Take, for example, a sunset water scene. You have beautiful calm sea and a sky that’s on fire. The setting sun is reflecting right across the water. It’s a gorgeous setting and could be a photograph just like this with nothing else added.

But look below at the addition of the trees and hammock. All of a sudden there is depth. Another dimension has been added. You might have enjoyed looking at that sunset on the water before but now you feel like you could just stroll right in, lie down in that hammock and sip on a cocktail!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ironrodart/4290027967

Here in Scotland we all have screensavers of scenes just like this – it gets us through the cold, dark days!

  1. Context

Closely linked to using foreground to add depth is the use of foreground to add context. Some scenes could be anywhere at all and that concept can be fun. We all love a bit of mystery don’t we? We love to fill in the details for ourselves.

However, sometimes as a photographer you might want to make it clear where your subject is. You might want to show it in relation to its surroundings. You want to show where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Foreground can be used to great effect to give your subject this context.

Take for example this beautiful little white chapel. It could make an aesthetically pleasing picture on its own. You would appreciate the chapel but you would be left to imagine for yourself where it is.

 https://500px.com/fegari

However, the photographer has not done this. By moving a good distance away from the little chapel and crouching low in the grass and flowers, we can now see that it is set amongst wild grass with stunning mountains in the background. We now understand how the chapel slots into its environment.

  1. Framing

There are so many opportunities to frame your subject using something in the foreground. You only need to look around. When you do this you draw attention to your main subject in a really interesting way.

This is something I use a lot in my people photography. I love to take portraits and capture a real study of that person but I also love to step back and look for things in the foreground I can frame them in.

Obvious framing options are doorways, windows and arches and just because they are obvious doesn’t mean they are not effective. Use them whenever you can.

However, look for more obscure frames too. Trees, flowers, long grass, caves. I am going to go into environmental framing in more depth soon. It really deserves its own episode so I will leave it there.

https://www.findingtheuniverse.com/

  1. Contrast

Contrast adds depth and texture to an image. It really makes a scene come to life. To have contrast in a photograph, you have to capture light and shade.

More often than not the foreground you use in your image will be lit completely differently to your main subject. Usually it will be darker. Your eye is naturally drawn to the brighter parts of a scene so it does tend to work best if your foreground is in shadow and your subject is bathed in the light.

Take the image below. The foreground is quite dark and moody looking. It leads up to the main subject which is dramatic snow covered, sharp peaked mountain which is bathed in golden evening sunlight. Contrast in photography is truly a beautiful thing.

https://500px.com/iuriebelegurschi

  1. Leading

Another great way to use foreground in your photography is to allow it to lead your viewer’s eyes to the subject. Give your viewer a journey to go on. When you do this you become a storyteller, not just someone who takes photographs. Human eyes love to roam. Give them the opportunity to do that!

The boardwalk in the image makes you feel like you are standing dead centre at the very end of it looking out towards the water. Then it leads your eyes towards the water and the gorgeous sky.

Leading lines are very powerful and we will delve into this in more detail as we continue with our composition series.

https://www.wallpapervortex.com/

Tips for using foreground in your composition.

Look around

Open your eyes to foreground opportunities. We are so used to this three dimensional world we live in that we can miss beautiful composition chances all the time. I would recommend that every time you are photographing with purpose (not taking snapshots) you look around you for a way of taking a similar shot with some added foreground. This one habit alone will transform your photography and open you up to new ways to compose frames.

Get low

Whilst you are looking around for foreground, move around too. Getting low is a great way of seeing how your subject will look with some of that lower foreground in it. A low perspective also adds huge interest to an image since it is not an angle we are used to. Grab your viewer’s attention by showing what is usually underneath our line of vision.

Take your time

Once you have found some foreground and you have it all framed up in your viewfinder, take a moment. Move it around to find the sweet spot and look for distractions. But remember to also ask yourself,

‘Has this improved the image/made the image more interesting?’

If the foreground hasn’t added anything then it’s just distracting. It might even look like an accident. Take some time to think it all through.

Consider your aperture

What is your foreground’s purpose? Maybe it is there to give depth or to add an element of voyeurism to your image (more about that in our framing episode to come). In that case you might want to blur it out using a wider aperture. Or maybe you are capturing a landscape and you want sharpness from your foreground all the way to your main subject and beyond. In that case you will want to select a narrower aperture.

Remember though, you are the artist. It’s your story so tell it any way you like!

Do you use add foreground to your images? Let me know if you have any other tips in the comments!

The post How to use foreground in your composition – Ep.31 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 05 2016

17mins

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How to achieve a blurry background, even with a kit lens – Ep.30

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How to achieve a blurry background, even with a kit lens.

Today we are going to nail down the four things you need to consider if you want to achieve a blurry background in your images, even with a kit lens.

It is no secret that most beginners really hanker after that gorgeous blurry background you see in lots of professional photography. We refer to those ‘out of focus’ areas as our ‘bokeh’.

It is a common way of shooting lifestyle portraits because often the background in images like these can be quite distracting. I do a lot of photography with children and families outdoors and if I am trying to really capture the essence of that family I definitely don’t want the background to be distracting the viewer from what really matters.

You will also see a blurry background used to great effect in lots of other genres of photography: wildlife, nature, pets, cars, sports (I could go on). The reason the photographer has blurred out the background is usually the same – to draw attention to the subject and reduce distractions.

I love this look and I use it a lot. However, I do also think it is easy to get stuck in a rut shooting this way and this has definitely happened to me several times over the years. A blurry background looks great and it is necessary at times but remember to look around you for backgrounds which are crying out to be in focus too – that’s a good subject for a future podcast actually, so stay tuned!

I run monthly workshops for beginner photographers and lots of them come along saying that they love images with sharp subjects and blurry backgrounds and want to be able to create this look in their own photography. I can absolutely identify with it too because it was the number one thing I wanted to produce when I got my first DSLR and started learning photography.

So today I am going to tell you how to achieve this look, even with a standard 18-55mm kit lens.

Firstly, let’s discuss aperture. If you are a TBT podcast listener then firstly, thank you and I love you, and secondly, you will already know all about aperture and how it affects your depth of field. If not pop back and listen to episodes 2 and 3 for detailed aperture information.

The wider the aperture you select, the shallower your depth of field will be.

Depth of field is simply the distance of sharp focus in your scene.

When you select a wide aperture you are reducing this distance of sharp focus. So a ‘wide aperture’ is one way of trying to achieve a blurry background. But believe me, it is most definitely not the only way.

There are other factors to consider.

Let’s imagine that you are taking a photograph of your friend in the park. Let’s say that you have a kit lens on your camera – the good old 18-55mm lens which came with your DSLR. You are zoomed in to 55mm and the widest aperture your lens will allow you to shoot with at this focal length is f/5.6.

If you are a true beginner and this means nothing to you then the best thing you can do right now is sign up for my Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course. It is FREE and after 11 short sessions you will be amazed at how far you will have progressed!

Now f/5.6 is not that wide an aperture considering other lenses can open to f/1.8 or even f/1.2. But that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a blurry background if you understand the other factors which contribute to this.

So you have placed your friend in the middle of the park far away from any distractions. First of all you stand just one metre away from him and take a head and shoulder shot of him. Then you move 10 metres away from him and take a photograph with the exact same exposure settings. Your aperture is still f/5.6.

You are obviously going to have much more of him in this second shot and much more of his background but I also want you to think about your depth of field. Think about the distance of sharp focus in your first shot compared to your second shot.

You have moved away from your subject creating more distance between you both. Increasing this distance from your subject means that you also increased your depth of field.

That means you can use the exact same aperture width and get totally different depths of field. How? Just be stepping back from, or closer to, your subject.

Stay with me.

If there is more overall distance in your scene then there is more depth of field in your image.

If there is less overall distance in your scene then there is less depth of field in your image.

So if you are keen to achieve a blurry background then how close you are to your subject plays a very important role. Especially if you have a lens that doesn’t open as wide as you would like.

Does that make sense? If not, back up and read over it again.

But there’s more!

What about how close your subject is to the background? That’s got to matter too, right? For similar reasons. If your background is further away from your subject then it will be further away from the section of your scene that is in sharp focus, meaning it will be blurrier.

So making sure there is a good distance between your subject and the background will also help you to blur out that background further.

Lastly, and importantly, the focal length of your lens also affects your background blur. Let’s think about a telephoto lens. If you are a beginner working with an 18-55mm kit lens on a cropped frame camera then zooming in to 55mm is like shooting with an 85mm lens on a full frame camera due to the crop factor. This means at 55mm your kit lens is a telephoto lens.

I talk about the crop factor in episode 14 in case this is news to you. Check it out here.

We know that when we look through a telephoto lens we get magnification. Our subject appears closer to us than they actually are. But this magnification doesn’t just affect your subject, it affects your background too.

The background will appear to be closer to your subject than it actually is. Sometimes you will hear this described as ‘compression’ because that is exactly the effect it has on your scene. The whole scene looks like it has been compressed.

The distance between everything appears reduced.

The more compression you have in your scene, the blurrier your background will be. This is why so many portrait photographers, especially those who shoot in natural environments, use longer focal lengths. I talk about this more in episode 15.

My ‘lens of choice’ for portraits is my 85mm 1.4G because it gives me such beautiful compression. Many of my photographer friends shoot at even longer focal lengths than this using their 70-200 f/2.8.

Yes, using a high quality telephoto lens which opens wide will definitely give you better background blur in your images.

However, we don’t all have the funds to spend on such a lens, do we?

Well don’t despair…

If you are sitting there with your 18-55mm kit lens and you want to know how to take a photograph with a sharp subject and a blurry background, make sure of these four things;

  1. Zoom all the way in to 55mm
  2. Open your aperture as wide as you can (f/5.6 at 55mm)
  3. Create more distance between your subject and the background
  4. Close the distance between you and your subject

Do all four of these things and you will get the blurry background you are looking for. Will it be as creamy as one captured with a more expensive, faster lens? No. But at least you know it is nothing you are doing. You have to work with what you have for now.

If you have any questions or comments at all about this then get in touch! You can post them in the comments below or you can shout out on Twitter @TeaBreakTog. Alternatively, you can connect with me on facebook. I am always delighted to hear from you and have a conversation.

I’m back on Wednesday talking about composition again. Join me then!

The post How to achieve a blurry background, even with a kit lens – Ep.30 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Feb 02 2016

18mins

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Natural Light Child Photography – 7 tips to create natural moments indoors – Ep. 29

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Natural Light Child Photography – 7 tips to create natural moments indoors

Today I am talking about natural light child photography indoors when you only have a small area of good light to work in. How do you get them to stay there for any length of time so that you can take great photographs of them?

So I have talked at length now about how to find the light indoors before you take photographs of kids. I hope I convinced you of how important that is. I also gave you lots of other tips about how to prepare in advance of taking photographs of children so that when you do press that shutter button, your chances of success are much higher.

I then ended up going ‘off on one’ about why making the effort to do all of this will mean the difference between you taking a snapshot and creating a photograph. I explained that a good lifestyle photographer chooses the light and the setting and then they create the moments that end up looking so natural.

So let’s say you have found the light indoors and you have done all the preparation I recommended to you last week. Now how on earth do you create those moments? And how do you keep young children in one place long enough to even attempt to create anything?!

Fear not. That’s what I am going to help you with today!

I am focusing on young children in this episode because they are the most challenging. If you used these tips with older kids you would get some funny looks – I will help you with that age group another time!

Before we get started on this I want to mention a message I received last week. Angela sent me a message after episode 27. She said;

“Julie thanks so much for your advice about preparing for taking photographs of children inside. I always have trouble with this and your pointers were great.

You mentioned making sure to get exposure settings before starting but you didn’t mention what the exposure settings should be. Can you tell me what your settings would be for a shoot like this? For example I regularly take photographs of my kids in my living room in front of a double patio door.

What settings should I be using for this?”

Angela is not alone in asking questions like this. It happens a lot. I used to ask questions like this too.

The problem is though, this question is impossible to answer.

Your exposure settings will absolutely depend on the light you have available to you on that particular day. The weather and the time of day will affect this dramatically.

Your exposure settings will also depend on how many children you are taking photographs of, how old they are and how close together they are. So, for example, if you are taking photographs of one child who is around 5 years old and can stay relatively still for long enough for you to press the shutter button then you might open your aperture wide for a shallow depth of field so you can blur out the background and really zone in on their eyes. However, if you have a much younger subject who is zooming about or you have two young children to photograph and they are not close together or in line with each other then a wide aperture is just going to mean that one or both are going to out of focus.

So you see, the settings you need in your room at the time of day you are shooting with your subjects and your camera will determine your settings.

And they will be completely different from my settings in my scenario.

If all this ‘settings’ stuff is completely confusing to you, don’t worry, just sign up for my FREE ‘Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course and you will be clued-up in ten days flat – honestly!

So whilst I cannot tell you what your exposure settings should be, what I can do Angela, is give you some pointers (I hope that makes up for it!)

Firstly, when my subjects are young children I aim for a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 sec. Of course faster would be better but that is the minimum I would accept if I didn’t have quite as much light as I would like. Young kids move fast and you don’t want motion blur.

To make sure your shutter speed is fast enough you might need to increase your ISO. Don’t be scared to do that. If you have chosen good light indoors then you should not have much of a problem with digital noise. Crank up that ISO in order to speed up that shutter.

I typically select a wide aperture indoors to let in lots of light and also to blur out the distractions which are often everywhere inside. If I have just one subject then I will probably select f/1.4 –f/2 (depending on their age and how still they can be). If I am capturing more than one child together in a photograph then I would opt for f/2.8 and give myself a little more depth of field to play with.

N.B. Shooting with very wide apertures like f/1.4 needs practice. You will have varied results with sharpness because your depth of field is so very shallow. By all means practice with these wide apertures but perhaps not if the images really matter…

To finish my advice regarding settings I would also be shooting this using continuous autofocus mode (AF-C or AI Servo) and back button focus. Great settings for fast-moving kids!

Once you have settled on your exposure settings (do all of this with an adult if you can – kids get bored!) remember they shouldn’t really change much at all if you are working in the same light throughout your shoot. Ignore your light meter and just shoot. Don’t be a ‘meterholic’!

So let me help you with making those moments happen! When you are working with kids you have to be so much more than a good photographer. You have to able to handle children too. Now that doesn’t mean you need to be an entertainer. Not at all. In fact, I think getting kids too hyper when you are trying to take their photographs can quickly turn into a nightmare…

But you do need to understand kids at a basic level at least.

I believe that taking photographs of your own children is actually much more difficult in some ways than taking photographs of other people’s children. Parents are constantly telling me how patient I am with their kids whilst I am photographing them. The truth is, it is easy to be patient and fun and silly with kids when they are not your own! Kids behave so much better for other people. Our own kids know which buttons to press don’t they? They know what winds us up and they also don’t feel that they have to pretend with us either.

All of the tips I am going to give you can be used with your own children and with other people’s. The trick, always, is to keep it fun and light-hearted. This is much easier with other people’s kids but might require some restraint with your own children. There may be things you would normally check them on which you are forced to let go for the sake of a bit more shooting time.

Make sure you are not tired and grumpy before you start and remember there is always tomorrow if things don’t go according to plan…

I am going to give you my 7 tips for natural light child photography indoors.

  1. Set up an activity in great light

Candid images of kids can be so beautiful. But candid is difficult indoors where you might only have a small area of ‘good light’. You want those cute expressions to happen in that beautiful light and not in a dark corner, right?

So set something fun up for them to do. This might be a teddy bears’ tea party on the carpet, jumping on the bed, a lego challenge, drawing, a puppet show or simply some beloved books to read. The possibilities are endless. If there is something fun to do in that gorgeous light and you are all ready to shoot then you are going to get some decent time to capture a pretty set of images before your little subject gets bored.

Every now and again say their name or make a funny noise and get them to look up at you if you want some eye contact.

Don’t forget to capture the little details like close-ups of busy little hands or bare feet and move around the whole scene to capture it from every angle. You are not a tree – use your feet!

  1. Find new ways to sit

Young kids wriggle when they are asked to sit still. They just do. Asking children to sit still so that you can create a photograph is like asking them to sleep through until 11am because you have a hangover – it’s not going to happen!

If you are dealing with a wriggler you can get creative with your seating. Don’t ask me why but if you allow kids to sit differently on a seat than normal then you will get longer before they want to get up.

A good technique is to turn chairs and sofas around so that children are leaning over the back of them instead. When they have something to lean on like this they stay still for longer and they look far more relaxed and comfortable than they do just sitting normally on a chair. For a start, they don’t have to worry about what to do with their hands because they are using them to lean on and sometimes this will mean standing on furniture, which they are probably not usually allowed to do!

You will probably manage a few eye-contact shots by doing this but, remember, the shots with no eye-contact can be equally lovely so capture them too.

  1. Employ a furry assistant

Most young kids have a favourite soft toy or lots of favourite soft toys. This can be a great way of getting their cooperation. I often ask them to go and get their toy and introduce me. We have a chat about them and I usually take a few photographs of them together. Then I ask if they would like the toy to take some photographs of them.

I then joke about a little and get the toy to do some daft stuff with the camera before simply holding the toy between me and my camera and taking some frames. More often than not I get some gorgeous portraits doing this. Your subject will love seeing their favourite toy being the ‘photographer’.

Be careful with this tip – I have had it backfire on me spectacularly! Some kids are pretty protective when it comes to ‘special toys’ and will not want to part with them once they are brought into the scene.

You will know your own child when it comes to this. If your subjects are not your children, chat to their parents and ask them what their thoughts are on this.

  1. Invent a camera dweller or a get a lens buddy!

I used to have a crochet lens buddy who slipped over the end of my lens. He was an owl called Olly. I left him in the park years ago and ever since Olly got lost I have been telling young children that I have a parrot in my camera called Olly. I turned him into a parrot for colour reasons!

When I start the shoot I tell my little subjects about the parrot who lives inside my camera. I tell them his name is Olly and he is very shy but that they might see his colourful feathers when they are looking into my camera. If you have looked into a camera lens then you will have seen the different colour reflections you can often see in the glass. I tell young children that is Olly.

This works best with kids under 8 but I have had kids up to the age of 10 accept this completely and utterly!

Every time they see a new colour I ask them to yell out the colour they saw. I then tell them which part of Olly that was. There is always great hilarity when Olly shows them his bottom!

I actually think my imaginary Olly works better than my lens buddy, Olly, but both are great ways to get kids attention and add some fun.

  1. Swap out your serious head for a while

I know you are a very sensible grown-up and all that, but . . .

Be prepared to sing crap songs at the top of your voice, make fart noises with your mouth and generally dance about and act completely daft. This is easier when it is just you and the kids but often you will have another adult with you. You won’t have time to be embarrassed. Just shed a few years for the shoot and encourage your assistant to do the same.

You will love it really!

If you are taking photographs of your own children then you know already what makes them laugh or smile. There will be a favourite song or a noise that just gets them every time. There are lots of funny phone apps with rude or silly noises so get them installed and have them ready to use.

This one is popular in my house!

If they are not your kids then it can be hard to get a genuine laugh quickly. They might be a bit shy with you (or they just don’t think you are funny!). Don’t waste lots of shooting time trying to find something that makes them laugh – use a parent or an older sibling! Ask your helper to stand as close as possible to you or directly behind you and make the kids laugh. Tell them to be as daft as they like and promise not to look round so they don’t get embarrassed. They will get a fabulous smile or laugh much easier and quicker than you would.

  1. Peek-a-boo

I know, it is such a cliché. But it works like a dream most of the time!

Firstly, your subjects can play peek-a-boo. You can ask them to crouch behind the back of a chair or crawl behind a table or you can just give them something to hide their face with. Make sure you are all set up with your focus point aimed at where their little face is going to appear. Kids can’t help but smile and laugh when they hide and then reappear. Be ready and you will be treated to some real joyful expressions!

You can also ask your helper to play peek-a-boo behind you. This is especially effective with really little ones. So ask your assistant to hide right behind you then pop out to the left, the right or above your head with crazy looks on their face and making silly noises.

  1. Know when to stop

I just can’t emphasise this enough.

If all is going swimmingly and then your mini model starts getting really fed up or upset, don’t try to get them through it. Just stop.

Stopping might mean just taking a break and setting up a new activity or scene while the kids play, grab a snack or just chill out for a while.

But sometimes, stopping might mean quitting. Over. Finished. Done. If you persevere you will not be capturing ‘keeper’ images. You can see it in a kid’s face when they are not enjoying themselves. Unlike us adults they are really, really bad at hiding it! Eyes fill with tears, cheeks get red, drool and snot make a quick appearance and the general mood of the room hits the floor quicker than your shutter speed.

It’s just not worth the stress.

If you make sure to stop when everyone is still having fun, they will be more than willing to let you take photographs again some other time. If you end up with fraught, tearful models you can guarantee that the next time you try to take their photograph will be less than easy.

So those are my 7 tips for creating natural looking images when photographing children indoors. What about you? Do you have any secrets you can share? What works for you? Leave me a comment under episode 29 at teabreaktog.com, visit the Facebook page and join the conversation or connect with me on twitter @TeaBreakTog!

Don’t forget, if you are still struggling to get your head around manual mode then subscribe to my ‘Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course. Nowhere will you learn more in such little time.

Over in the Facebook group this week we have an ‘iPhoneography’ theme going on. There are some absolutely superb images being shared. Please do join us if you are a Facebook user. What a great group of like-minded learners, honestly. You can find us here. Someone will approve your request as soon as possible and we will very much look forward to welcoming you into the fold!

I will be back in a couple of days with another episode in my ‘Composition’ series. I am going to be talking about using foreground in your images. It’s something I certainly love to do. So join me for that. It will definitely get those creative juices flowing and you will start seeing foreground opportunities everywhere you go!

Remember I want to hear from you on today’s topic. If you have any ideas for keeping kids entertained whilst creating magical photography moments indoors then let me know!

The post Natural Light Child Photography – 7 tips to create natural moments indoors – Ep. 29 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 27 2016

30mins

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The Difference between a Snapshot and a Photograph (and why it matters) – Ep.28

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The Difference between a Snapshot and a Photograph (and why it matters)

Today I am talking about the difference between taking a snapshot and creating a photograph. I will be asking the question, does ‘setting up’ a shot mean that it is not what you would call a ‘natural’ image?

As usual – you can either listen or read (listening means you don’t need to set aside time though, which is a bonus, right?)

This topic was born from a conversation I had on Facebook off the back of the series on photographing kids indoors. So I shared the first episode in the series on Monday – which was about finding the perfect light to take your photographs in – to social media as usual and a lady on Facebook tagged her friend in the post so that she could have a read of it. Now I don’t know these ladies at all but I was very interested in what they were saying for obvious reasons. The lady who was tagged had a quick read of the show notes and then replied saying that what I was saying was fine if you are ‘setting up the photographs’ but not for the more candid, natural shots that she wanted to capture. The thread went on for a bit and I jumped in with some thoughts on it all, thoughts I am going to share with you now.

And by the way, I hope these lovely ladies don’t mind me using their conversation. They had it on my Facebook page so I promise I wasn’t invading a private chat ;-). The thread they started holds so much value for us all – I just had to use it! What the second lady was saying was that she wants to create very natural family images. She doesn’t want them to be posed and ‘set up’. My advice about finding the perfect light and placing people in that light just didn’t line up with this notion of ‘natural photography’ that she has in her mind’s eye.

She is definitely not alone in feeling this! I hear this all the time. So I am not just talking to that particular lady here. I am talking to everyone. My past self too!

‘I just want to take natural images. If I set it all up then it’s fake!’

I know some of you will be nodding your heads at that.

I remember when I was just starting out and the images I gravitated towards were the natural, lifestyle portraits of kids and families just having fun. Laughing, smiling and playing. I used to pour over them on Pinterest. Everyone wants those images of their family – here we are looking great, loving each other, having fun with each other and just being together as a family. As a learner photographer I thought this style of family photography looked pretty easy. After all, you’re just capturing what is happening, right?

Wrong.

So I started trying to capture these natural moments with kids and families and guess what? The images looked nothing like what I was seeing on Pinterest!

They often looked pretty terrible actually.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are taking photographs of your own two kids jumping on the bed and having a giggle. Imagine that the room this is happening in is one of the darkest rooms in the house. There is just one small window and it is to the side of the bed so one child is getting light on their face whilst the other’s face is in complete shadow.

I also want you to imagine that the room is a complete tip (I know you can imagine that!)

So you see the fun and games happening and the delight on the kids’ faces and you think – photo opportunity! You grab the camera, switch it to auto for speed, and take some photographs. The thing is, your camera has picked up on the fact that there is very little light so it pops up the ‘on-camera flash’ and nukes the whole scene with bright, white light! It has frozen the action but the image looks flat and lifeless and nothing like the actual scene in front of you. That horrible flash on your camera has also gone and illuminated all the mess and clutter you didn’t really want to show!

Alternatively, maybe you take the time to manually expose this scene but realise that, to do so without flash, you are going to need a super high ISO setting and even then, your shutter speed is going to be on the slow side.

(If that is all new to you then definitely enrol in my ‘Auto to Manual for Beginners’ course. It’s absolutely free.)

If you go ahead and try to capture the scene with these settings you will probably end up with a lot of digital noise and motion blur. You will also have one bright child and one in complete shadow!

Not what you were hoping to create at all! So disappointing isn’t it? You can’t help but think, why do my ‘natural’ images look nothing like all these gorgeous family lifestyle shots I see on Pinterest??!!

Does the fact that it is not going to be perfect mean that you shouldn’t take the photograph? No way! Of course you should take it.

Take it and accept that it is a ‘snapshot’.

It is a memory captured. Will you treasure it? Yes! Will you consider it a photographic masterpiece? Probably not!

I take snapshots all the time. My personal rule is to capture snapshots on my phone and not with my DSLR. I have an iPhone 6 which takes great quality snapshots and it is never far from me. I don’t want to miss capturing memories simply because I was trying to make a beautiful photograph out of them.

When I looked up what the word ‘snapshot’ actually means online I came across a good definition in Wikipedia;

“Snapshot – A photograph that is shot spontaneously and quickly, most often without artistic or journalistic intent.”

The truth is, when spontaneous moments present themselves you rarely have the time to make a beautiful photograph out of them! Sometimes you get lucky with the light (and your reaction time) but it is rare.

So what am I getting at here?

What I am saying is that when you see the seemingly candid, family photography of a natural light photographer online and you love how natural and beautiful it all looks. Know this. That photographer chose the light they wanted to work in, they arranged everything around that light and then they created those moments that look so candid.

If you think that is ‘fake’, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Because when you know how to create those moments, they are completely genuine and they happen exactly in the place you want them to.

That is the difference between taking a snapshot and creating a photograph.

When I was on holiday in the summer with the family we basically got rained on for a full week because we made the poor decision to holiday in Scotland. We rented a lodge which had beautiful big windows that let in plenty of gorgeous, north light. As soon as I saw them I knew I wanted to use them in photographs.

I had a photograph in my mind I wanted to create.

However, the room wasn’t really set up ideally for me to make best use of this light. So my husband and I changed it around so that it was. We moved the TV out of the scene and we moved the sofa much closer to the window. We also moved all the clutter from the scene. Only then did I call the kids and tell them about what I wanted to create.

I wanted them to jump up and down on the sofa (let’s hope the owner of the lodge isn’t listening). Now tell me a kid that doesn’t want to jump up and down on a couch or a bed? Even though I set the whole thing up, does that mean that the smiles and the joy on their faces isn’t real? Absolutely not! They had a great time.

But it all happened in the light I chose, in the place I chose and in exactly the way I envisaged it in my head.

I didn’t take a snapshot. I created a photograph.

Now of course this doesn’t apply to some genres of photography. Take photojournalism, for example. You are there to capture what is happening at the time. You are not there to move the action to good light. Then there is wedding photography. You must capture certain moments during the day despite the fact they might be happening in horrific light.

However, a good photographer will still look for the best angle, the best position and the best way to capture that scene to make the best use of the light they have been given to work with.

And when they can move the action to better light, they will!

Light is everything in photography. When you stop trying to create photographs in poor light your journey will take a whole new direction. Your photography journey will not only accelerate but it will also be a million times more rewarding.

So if you take anything from this episode, let it be this. Before you click, ask yourself;

Is this a snapshot I’m about to capture or does it have the potential to be a photograph?

If it is a snapshot just take it. If it has potential – create it.

Next week I am going to be giving you heaps of great tips on how you can set up a shot with kids so that it looks completely natural. Tune in for that on Monday!

For now, I would love to know your thoughts on this! How do you feel about snapshots and photographs? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Whatever your opinion I would love you to share it.

The post The Difference between a Snapshot and a Photograph (and why it matters) – Ep.28 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 22 2016

17mins

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Taking photographs of kids indoors – 10 ways to prepare for success! Ep. 27

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Taking photographs of kids indoors – 10 ways to prepare for success!

We are sticking with the theme of taking photographs of kids indoors but this time the focus is on how to prepare for success. I am going to share with you ten great tips which will almost guarantee that you walk away with some winning shots!

On Monday I spoke a lot about the fact that before you even press that shutter button you have to ‘find the light’. There is a lot to this and it is super important so please do give that episode a listen if you haven’t done so already.

  1. Do a mood check!

For me, creating images with an emotional and temperamental toddler is right up there with taking a cold shower or eating snails. It is not something I want to put myself through at all. Just because you want to take photographs and the light is ‘just right’ doesn’t mean your little angel has bought in to this experience too!

Save yourself some stress and think about whether your little one is in the right frame of mind for this or not. If not then you might want to have that pint of vodka waiting again…

Obviously this only works if you are taking photographs of your own kids. A bit trickier with other people’s sprogs but if you follow the tips below you might still be able to make the best of a bad mood!

  1. Gather the things you will need

Make sure that you have all the things you might need close to hand. When I am working with young kids I like to have books they enjoy, favourite toys (more about that in the next episode), tissues for snotty noses and my iPhone to play songs they love. A suitable bribe might be on this list too . . .

  1. Plan your reward (bribe) in advance!

Kids are bribed all the time. We call them rewards but let’s admit that they are bribes! They can make life that little bit easier at times can’t they? But the best bribes are the ones you have had time to think about. Those ‘spur of the moment’ bribes often end in disaster.

Like when you tell them they can go swimming afterwards but you forgot that you are all expected at Great Aunt Bessie’s house to visit, or when you tell them they can have an ice cream cone but there isn’t any ice cream in the house and the shops are closed. Not good!

You need to think about your reward in advance and make it appropriate to the child or the children you are photographing. It doesn’t have to be sweets but if it is then make sure that you actually have them available! And make sure you make it very clear that they are for after you are all finished and not during. Never give in and give them a sweet before you are done. The whole shoot will fall apart quicker than you can say ‘cheese’!

I find the best rewards are not edible though. The most effective rewards are activities and they are discussed with the kids beforehand. A simple trip to the park, a family board game, baking a cake or having a friend round to play are all great motivators for your little subjects to behave well for you during your shoot.

If you are taking photographs of someone else’s children then it goes without saying, I hope, that you let their parents decide whether a bribe is necessary and what that bribe should be. Could be a tad awkward if you don’t!

I’m a big fan of the bribe before I take photos of kids. However, some kids are just too young to understand them or others just don’t respond well to them at all. Parents know their own children. Don’t use a bribe unless it actually works with that particular child.

  1. Find the light beforehand

On Monday I talked a lot about how you go about finding the light to capture children in when you are indoors. If you listened then you will know that there is a lot more to that process than you perhaps initially thought. (If you didn’t catch it – be sure to have a listen).

Something positive is that you don’t actually need your young subjects to be with you when you do this. They can be playing, eating or destroying the place (as they do) whilst you find your perfect spot. The last thing you want is to have them sitting waiting whilst you seek out the ideal light because, by the time you find it, they will be bored to tears and ready to make the whole experience hell on earth – the little darlings!

  1. Check your setting

Look around at what is going to be in your scene. Is there anything distracting that can be moved? If so, move it all right out of the way. Close any open doors and tidy up any clutter.

Equally, is there anything that might look good in the setting? Add items that will work well. You might want to bring in a nice chair or add some complimentary colours to the background.

If, like me, you have a lot of stuff going on in your home then buying a good backdrop will make a huge difference. I have several strong paper backdrops I use to cover up windows, messy shelving or other clutter. It’s a lifesaver at times.

All you need is a simple backdrop stand, nothing fancy, and one backdrop that you like. I have several. The one below looks like an exposed brick wall in photographs. But I also have a couple of floral ones ones which look like wallpaper and some plain ones for simpler shots.

Doing a google search for photographers backdrops will give you a good idea of just how easily available and affordable these are.

  1. Adjust your exposure settings in advance

Once you have found some gorgeous window light to work in and checked your setting then it is time to meter the light and find the exposure you need for these shots. If you listen to the podcast you will know that I recommend you always spot meter the light from the brightest part of the face in these situations. When you do this you will find the perfect exposure for this pool of light and you can keep your settings the same throughout the time your subject is in this particular area. (as long as the light remains constant of course).

If my subjects are very young I won’t even use their faces to meter the light or check for catch lights etc. I use an adult or even a doll instead and I just let the kids continue to do their own thing. Anything to reduce their time in front of that camera is a good thing believe me!

If metering the light is not something you are a familiar with then you should definitely check out my Auto to Manual for Beginners course. It’s the perfect way to learn this quickly and thoroughly.

Finding your light and sorting out your exposure settings in advance like this, and without involving the kids, will mean that you are not asking for their co-operation for a second longer than necessary. When you begin the shoot you should be 100% ready to go in terms of light and camera settings.

  1. Have a conversation!

No matter what age the kids are, if you don’t know them overly well beforehand, then you must make sure you have a chat with them first. Honestly, even babies! Get down to their level and speak softly to them with a warm smile on your face. If they are at the conversation stage, ask them about themselves and let them tell you whatever they want to. If they are shy, give them some space and some time to get used to you in the room.

Whether they are your own kids or someone else’s, if they are old enough to understand, talk them through what is about to happen. Talk to them about where you have found this gorgeous light and tell them you are going to let them have some fun in it! Show them where the light starts and ends so they are aware of the space but don’t tell them that they can’t move from it. It is your job to keep them there and I am going to help you with that in the next episode in this series.

  1. Let them see and touch your camera

If you are willing to, then show your mini models your camera and let them touch it – with the lens cap on! I often let the kids I am photographing look at some images on the screen and I ask them if they would like to be on there. I might even let them take a photograph of their sibling or parent. As long as I am holding the camera with them I really don’t mind.

Of course, you will have to make your own judgment and common sense here but allowing your little subjects to familiarise themselves with this alien object can make your life easier during the shoot.

  1. Be realistic about time

The time you are going to have before the shoot goes downhill will vary drastically depending on the age of the kids and their temperament. If you go into that shoot expecting to get an hour of perfect playing and sweet smiling and joyful moments then you are going to be crying into your coffee later on!

Kids don’t want to have their photograph taken continuously for an hour. Would you?

Expect your time in this light to be brief and just ensure that you are wasting none of this time at all by following the advice I have given you in points 1, 2 and 3. When those kids are ready to go – you need to be ready too!

This means that even if you only get 5 minutes before little Johnny has a meltdown then at least you spent that 5 minutes shooting and not faffing about with your camera settings and arranging a bribe!

If you go in with low expectations and end up getting 30 minutes of pure gold then HAPPY DAYS – and what are you giving those children because I want some to give to mine!

  1. Three’s a crowd (and prepping your helper)

An assistant can be really handy when you are photographing kids, especially if your subjects are young. I like to have a helper for sure. However, more than one helper can be hindrance! One other adult or older child in the room is more than enough. Giving the kids too many people to look at or listen to can lead to confusion and upset.

Be sure to prep your helper. Tell them what you want their role to be. They won’t think you are rude – they will just be glad to know how they can assist you!

I always ask that no one but me gives direction to the kids. The last thing I want is for my helper to be speaking to them when I am trying to get them to look somewhere else or for the kids to be getting a telling off from someone when I am trying to capture happiness and joy.

An assistant is simply there to do what you ask them to do. So be sure to let them know what you want from them and use them to make your task easier.

I will go into how you can make the best use of an assistant on Monday when I am going to be talking about how to keep kids in one place long enough to take their photographs indoors.

In the meantime remember to sign up for my window light webinar if you haven’t done so already.

Before I go I have a small request. If you enjoy the podcast on iTunes and have a spare couple of minutes then I would be so VERY grateful if you could leave me an iTunes review. You can find out how to do this in iTunes or from your iPhone or iPad right here.

I know you are all busy so if you take the time to do this please pop me a message and let me know so that I can thank you personally.

Until next time!

The post Taking photographs of kids indoors – 10 ways to prepare for success! Ep. 27 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 20 2016

20mins

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Photographing Children Indoors – 7 tips to help you find the light! – Ep.26

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Photographing Children Indoors – How to Find the Light!

In today’s episode I am talking about finding the light when you are photographing children indoors. Where do you find the light? How do you know when you have found it? And how do you use it when you do find it? Yes, it’s better on the podcast but feel free to read it instead

This is definitely my arena. I love to photograph children above all other subjects. I love kids. I love how much fun I have with them, I love that they don’t have the hang-ups that us adults have and I love that they challenge me! All. The. Time. When you photograph children you have to be so much more than a good photographer. You have to understand kids and how their little minds work and you have to connect with them on their level and make them trust you. You could be, technically, the best photographer in the world but if you can’t relate to kids then you will not be able to create beautiful images of them.

A huge challenge when it comes to child photography is capturing them indoors. Outdoors you have lots more space to work with and much larger areas of good light to place them in. You can keep your distance and shoot lots of action. I am going to delve into the outdoor stuff at a later date though, because I know that the thing you all struggle with most when photographing kids is capturing them indoors.

Am I right?

The first and main issue here is ‘finding the light’ and that is what I am going to focus on in today’s episode!

I talk about this a lot during my beginners’ workshops and I talk about it a lot during my 1-2-1 sessions with learners. I mention it all the time in comments on the facebook group. In fact, it is safe to say that I talk about this constantly!

The reason I talk about ‘finding the light’ a lot is because it is EVERYTHING. It is the single most important thing you can do to give yourself the best chance of capturing a great image. You can select the most beautiful subject, the most captivating background, the correct exposure and superb composition. However, if you have chosen terrible light to shoot in then all of that will mean . . . nothing.

Sorry but it is true.

If you are a photographer skilled in using off-camera flash and you have all the necessary gear then you don’t have to worry too much about this. You can simply add your own beautiful light to any scene. But, if like me, you work with natural light then you don’t choose to do that. Available light has to be your first thought. And let’s face it, most learners do not have a good grasp of off-camera flash and they don’t have all the gear yet. They have to learn to work with the light that is already there.

Also, try adding lots of off-camera flash when working with toddlers in a small space. You will need a pint of vodka and a lie down in a darkened room after that shoot !

(N.B. I am going to be doing a show soon on why I believe every learner photographer should develop their natural light skills before going down the flash route – flash is amazing but you will get so more from it if you master natural light first)

Almost daily on social media I see learners posting images in photography groups and asking what went wrong. Why doesn’t the image look as sharp as it should? Why are the colours off? Why doesn’t it look the way I imagined in my head? They have made sure their shutter speed was fast enough, they have checked their focus settings, they used the right white balance setting and they just don’t understand what has gone wrong.

Just for the record, I love to see learners posting images and asking for advice. This is how I learned. If you do this – continue! If you don’t – you should! There are lots of people out there willing to help and share their wisdom with you. It’s a beautiful thing!

Join our facebook group to get involved in this with like-minded learners.

9 times out of 10, I can see immediately what has gone wrong for this person. 9 times out of 10 I can see that they simply chose poor light to shoot in. And this is particularly true when it comes to shooting indoors.

I have lost count of the number of times learners have told me they struggle shooting with natural light indoors. It is such a common headache and I can completely empathise with it. I remember fighting with this too. Missing countless moments indoors, becoming so frustrated by how terrible my images looked in the camera and not really understanding why because I felt my settings and shooting technique were right at the time.

Very demoralising indeed!

So I am going to share with you what I have learned since then and how it changed my indoor photography forever.

Just for the record, I am talking about natural light photography during the day in this episode. I’m not going to cover flash or artificial light here at all. That’s a whole other subject…

1. Choose your room carefully

Don’t simply choose the prettiest room or the brightest room. Often I go to clients’ homes to take their family portraits and they show me into their favourite room or their largest room or their brightest room – only to have me turn around and say I can’t use it! I always tell them ahead of the shoot that I will have to look around and that they might be surprised with the room I select. This is because I am looking first and foremost for good light.

But what does that even mean? How do you know if a room has good light or not?

Well, the light will change depending on the time of day and it will change depending on the weather, but, if you are shooting with natural light and not flash then it has to be window light. My favourite light source!

2. No direct sunlight shining in

I usually try to choose a room with no direct sunlight shining in. The minute you have sunlight shining into a room you give yourself more work. Why? Because you will have lots more contrast all over that room. If the sun is shining on light coloured items in the room then they are going to be very, very bright and distracting in your image. If your subject moves into the sunlight they are going to end up with harsh shadows across their face and squinting eyes. There is also quite a yellow tone to a sunlit room which can be quite unflattering to the skin.

That’s not to say you can’t create a beautiful image in a sunlit room but you definitely need to know what you are doing. You need to be skilled at controlling and manipulating that strong light. I am a big believer in learning and developing your knowledge and skills using light that is easier to work with first. If you do this you will build up to working with challenging light with much more confidence.

Also, let’s say you are working with children in that challenging light. This makes your job twice as difficult! Kids do their own thing, you have to work around them and be willing to adapt and sometimes even flip everything on its head. Add some tricky, strong light to that scenario and (well, do you remember that pint of vodka?)

So let’s think about a very sunny day. There is an abundance of light. You don’t want to look for the brightest room. It will actually be far too bright. You want to find a room with some nice, cool light coming in through a window. If there is no sunlight coming in then that means the light is being filtered by something. Perhaps by the clouds or trees or a building,

Trust me, filtered window light is beautiful!

If you just can’t find a room with no sunlight shining in then you can clip lots of layers of voile over the window to filter the sunlight. This works really well. Or if there is sun shining in one side of the room and not the other – block that side by closing the curtains or placing something over the window.

However, if it is a very overcast day then you are going to want to select the room with the most light entering which will likely be the room facing where the sun is (albeit behind all those clouds). The other rooms will likely be too dark on a day like this.

3. A room with windows on one wall only will be easier to work with

If the room you choose only has light entering from one side you will have much more control over that light. You know where it is coming from and you know where it is landing in the room. You can then use it to make your subject look wonderful! If you have light invading your scene from other angles then you will have to work much harder to find the best light for your subject. The light on their face will not be as flattering if it is coming from lots of different directions. Trust me on this.

Remember, this could be as simple as closing the curtains over on one window in the room or, if there aren’t any curtains, placing something against the window to block the light.

4. Note where the light is falling

So let’s say you have found your room. You have light entering from just one side and it is being filtered nicely. The light search doesn’t end there. There is so much more to it than that I’m afraid. You now have to look very carefully at where that light is falling in the room. There will be a pool of light near that window and you will be able to see where it starts to fall away.

When your subject is placed in that pool of light they (and you) will benefit from it! They have to stay in it though.

Move them away from that light and, bang, there goes your image.

So search for it. Take your time with it. To begin with you might struggle to really see it but the more practice you get the easier it will be for you to find this pool of magical light in a room. You will not be able to stop seeing it everywhere you go after that!

5. Find the direction the light is coming from

This is important because it will allow you to use the light in several different ways. To understand which direction the light is coming from just turn with your subject until their face lights up evenly. You will know the face is lit evenly when the shadows on it are at a minimum. The light is much the same on their cheeks, chin and forehead. They will also have beautiful catch lights in both eyes.

Catch lights are so unbelievably important if you are going to be creating a photograph in which the subject’s face plays a big role.

Remember those catch lights!

If there are no lights in your subject’s eyes they look dull and lifeless. Always look for them when you are photographing people.

So when your subject’s face is evenly lit with catch lights in both eyes – you have found your light. That is the direction it is coming from – right behind you, the photographer.

You can now use this light to illuminate your subject from the front, just as you are (taking care not to block the light hitting your subject). But you can also step around your subject and use the light from the side to create shadows and contrast. Or you can even move right around and shoot into the light to create backlit images. (I am going to be doing a lot surrounding the use of light from different directions on the facebook page over the coming weeks so make sure you pop by and ‘like’ the page so you can follow the hints and tips.)

6. Distance from the light source matters!

If your subject is too close to a bright window then they might end up with very bright highlights on their face and if they get too far away from that window light their face is going to darken and those all-important catch lights will disappear. So be aware of the distance you have to work with. Do this by studying your subject’s face. Depending on the room you could have quite a small area of ‘good light’.

Again, with practice you will see this quickly and easily.

7. Stop shooting in bad light!

If your subject moves away from the ‘good light’ you have taken great care to find, stop shooting. I am saving you so much frustration with this tip. If you are shooting with purpose (which means you are shooting to create photographs, not take snapshots) then you do not want to take a shot in bad light. You will be so disappointed with how it turns out.

Your subject might have the cutest expression on their face and they might be composed perfectly in the scene but there will be something that stops you from loving that photograph – and it will be the light it was captured in.

Of course there will be times when you just want to capture a moment and you don’t really care about technicalities. I feel like this every time my kids have birthday parties. The places they have them in always have terrible light and busy backgrounds. At times like this I don’t care about the light the kids are bathed in. I am there to capture memories not create a masterpiece! In situations like that I use my iPhone or if the light is too awful for the iPhone then I use my camera on a semi automatic setting like aperture priority and I just shoot.

But that is not what we are talking about here is it? We are talking about shooting with purpose to create. That is very different. In that case your mantra has to be;

‘good light or no shot’

Having said all of that, I will end on this;

Remember there are no rules in photography, just tips. Sometimes you will ignore all of them when you have a specific purpose or creation in your mind!

Feel free to do this whenever you bloody like! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you any different.

I know what you are thinking now. I do!

How do I get young children to stay in good light long enough for me to take their photographs!?

Yes, this struggle is real. Child photography is so difficult for this reason. If it was as simple as just switching to auto and shooting then everyone would be doing it!

There are loads of hints and tips I can share with you on this subject though and I am going to do just that on Wednesday!

How to get kids to stay in good light whilst shooting indoors! Join me!

We will also be talking about how to prepare for a shoot like this. It’s all in the prep!

For now, give the facebook page a like so that you can follow the videos I am going to share there over the coming weeks. I would love it if you tried some of the tips I am going to share both on the podcast and on social media and uploaded your own efforts!

The post Photographing Children Indoors – 7 tips to help you find the light! – Ep.26 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 18 2016

25mins

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Rule of Thirds or Golden Ratio – which should you use? – Ep.25

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Rule of Thirds or Golden Ratio? Composition in Photography Series

Today I am talking about the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. Both are ways you can compose your images to make them more pleasing to the eye. What are they? Why do they work? How are you supposed to use them? When can you just ignore them? This is from a podcast episode which you can listen to below or, if you prefer to read, you can do that too – it’s all here!

This is part of a series on composition. The way you choose to compose your images is so important. I talked a lot more about this in episode 24 so I won’t repeat myself too much but I will recap that composition is basically the placement of visual elements of your scene. How everything in your scene is arranged. I talked about the annoying fact that some people just seem to born with an eye for composition whilst the rest of us need some help to start with!

Luckily, there are lots of composition guidelines and tips to help us and one of these (a biggie) is the ‘rule ot thirds’ which I am sure many of you have already heard of. Even if you have heard of it though, do you remember to use it? Do you use it well? Do you use it often?

What is the Rule of Thirds?

Let’s try to forgive the fact that it has the word ‘rule’ in the name. It is definitely just a guideline and not a rule that can’t be broken. The rule of thirds is a grid. It is made up of two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, which together, create nine equal boxes. It doesn’t matter what shape you choose for your image. It can be a long panoramic or a typical rectangle or a square. The rule of thirds in all of these examples would still just look like 9 equal sized boxes sitting over your image. This makes it pretty easy to visualise with our eyes.

During the Renaissance period painters started using thirds more and more. They realised that the human eye doesn’t rest in the centre of a scene. They knew that the human eye likes to roam and that we should bear that in mind when creating something visual for the eye to look at. These renaissance painters told stories with their art and gave their viewers more to look at.

The rule of thirds suggests (‘suggests’ is a better word isn’t it?) that we arrange our scene using the horizontal and vertical lines of the grid and place the most important visual elements where the lines intersect.

So let’s take a typical seascape which might incorporate some land, some sea and some sky. If you were to compose it using the rule of thirds you would give a third of the frame to land, a third to sea and a third to sky.

However, you don’t have to have three parts to your image like this at all.

Let’s say the sky on this day is just beautiful. Let’s say you are there at sunset and the sky is just on fire with loads of different colours of orange and red and pink.

In a scenario  like this you don’t want to waste two thirds of your image on land and sea. You want the sky to make up a larger part of your scene. So if you were to use the rule of thirds you would allocate two thirds of your scene to the sky and a third to the sea. Vice versa if the sea happens to be magnificent that day.

https://digital-photography-school.com/seascape-photography-tips/

But let’s add something to this scene. Let’s add a lighthouse. The rule of thirds suggests that you place that lighthouse at one of the four intersections and not in the middle.

You see, the problem with placing subjects smack bang in the middle of your scene is that it gives the eye nowhere to go.

If you look at a photograph and you find the subject in the centre of it you are much less likely to look around at the rest of the scene. You will just move on. If the subject is placed closer to one edge than the other this encourages you to look around at the rest of the scene.

As a photographer, this is what you want your viewer to do!

You are not just a photographer. You are a storyteller. You have arranged your scene in a certain way for a reason. The last thing you want is for someone to only look at the middle then move on to the next distraction. The longer they look, the happier you will be. You have grabbed them and ignited their interest. This is especially important if you have other points of interest in your scene.

This brings me pretty nicely to the counterpoint.

Let’s say you have two points of interest in your scene. If we consider the scene below you might place one point of interest (the man’s face) where the top horizontal line and the right vertical line intersect. So he is top right in the frame.

You have 3 more intersections you can use. Let’s say this second point of interest is the steering wheel of the car he has been working on. The perfect place for it would be the intersection that is diagonally opposite the intersection you placed his face on.

That is your counterpoint.

So when you have two points of interest in your image you can try to place them like this – diagonally opposite each other on the rule of thirds intersections. Obviously scenes don’t always work like this and remember, it is just a suggestion. However, when scenes do lend themselves to this you will find that using the counterpoint for your second point of interest will work really, really well. It just works.

So what about the Golden Ratio?

This is known by many names and it dates back way further than the rule of thirds. 800 years ago Fibonacci noticed a ratio that appeared often throughout the natural world. Almost a pattern to the way things were designed by nature and that it was the design most pleasing to the human eye.

Some call it the ‘golden ratio’ or ‘Fibonacci’s ratio’, others call it ‘phi’ (pronounced ‘fye’ by some and ‘fee’ by others). It is also known as ‘divine proportion’. The ratio is 1 : 1.618 and is widely recognized to create a sense of harmony and balance.

Now if you are like me and not too hot with numbers then that ratio won’t mean much to you. Fortunately, this golden ratio led to the design of the ‘golden spiral’ and the ‘phi grid’ which are graphic representations which we can use to compose our photography. Having a visual is what matters to me. If I can visualize it then I can understand it.

The spiral design, for me, is quite difficult to visualise when I am composing a shot in my camera. I struggle to see it unless it is in front of me. However, the phi grid is much easier to get your head around.

The ‘phi grid’ is similar to the rule of thirds in that there are two horizontal and two vertical lines but this time the frame is not divided into thirds. It is divided according to the golden ratio. Because of this, the intersections are much closer together and they are all closer to the centre of the frame.

This is my go-to tool when I am composing a shot. I am much more comfortable visualising this grid when I am actually taking my shot. In fact, once you get some practice you will not be able to stop visualizing it. You will see it when you are watching movies, you will see it in your favourite logos and you will see it in the world around you. The golden ratio really is EVERYWHERE!

Google image search

You use the golden spiral and the phi grid in the same way as the rule of thirds grid, simply place your most important visual elements along the lines and especially where they intersect.

Something I did a lot in the earlier part of my photography journey was to not really think about composition until afterwards and then just simply crop my image to make it more visually pleasing.

Honestly, there is nothing wrong with this as long as you are not cropping away too many pixels and destroying the quality of your image. A little tweaking with the crop tool goes a long way to improving your image and you will do a lot of this to start with.

As you practice and develop your skills and your eye you will do less and less cropping because you will start to see these grids and spirals in your head.

But, as I say, don’t worry if you need to crop to get your composition right. Keep doing that. It will only improve your photography. I always feel that the more work you have to do after taking your shot makes you more determined to get it right in the camera next time so experience like this is great!

One of the great things about today’s editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is that you can turn on overlays with the crop tool. So, every time you crop you will see the overlay of your choice and it will help you create the perfect composition for your image.

My overlay of choice is the ‘phi grid’ but it really is a personal preference thing. Annoyingly, Picasa, which is a popular free editing program does not have the option to crop using a grid overlay. It’s something that is really lacking. You might, however, have the option to turn on a grid in camera so that you see it when you look through your viewfinder. Some photographers like this option and some find it very distracting. Again, it’s all personal preference people!

I have reached the point that I can see the grids in my head when I am composing a shot. You will reach that point too if you haven’t already.

After all that chat about grids and spirals I am going to end by saying you honestly can’t get hung up on this. Yes, use them if they work. They will often help you to improve your image massively.

However, ignore them whenever you like!

Let’s go over three situations that might see you ignoring thirds and golden spirals and phi grids;

Close up portraits

Sometimes when you shoot a real close up of someone it just cries out to be centred or, if not centred, almost centred. Maybe you don’t want the viewer to look around the setting. You just want them to look into the subject’s eyes and get lost in that person for a while. A shot like this is a real study of a human. I often centre close-up portraits like this.

Symmetry

Often you come across symmetry that just cries out to be photographed. If you see symmetry you want to show that in the image and that might mean you have to ignore the rule of thirds or the golden ratio in order to convey that perfect symmetry. Go ahead and do it and don’t give it a second thought. The symmetry of the scene becomes the composition!

https://blog.instagram.com/post/98577192707/sashalevin

Close to the edges

At times you come across an image which gives a huge amount of space to the setting and the subject is actually pretty close to the edge or a corner of the frame. This is usually because the setting is really offering the most interest. Perhaps it is a phenomenal sky or a really awesome desert scene and the subject’s role is more to give perspective and scale. Done well, this can look great!

https://www.pelfusion.com/how-to-create-stunning-sunset-photography/

What I hope you take from this is that there are tools out there which do really help you to compose your images better. I use them all the time. But they can be used and ignored as you please. It is your art – create it in whatever way pleases you. If others like it – well that is just a bonus isn’t it?

For now, I would love to know what your main issues with composition are? Leave a comment below letting me know what you struggle with or which of these overlays you prefer…

The post Rule of Thirds or Golden Ratio – which should you use? – Ep.25 appeared first on Tea Break Tog.

Jan 15 2016

22mins

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By justice guy - Oct 19 2017
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Julie gives clear explanations of practical topics that I've found very helpful. Her Scottish accent is fun to listen to. It's well thought out and I appreciate that the episodes are only about 20 minutes long. And I like her ability to explain a topic while not talking down to you like we're ignorant. Well worth your time!

Insightful information & great host. Worth a listen

By D> - Aug 18 2016
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This photo podcast gets beyond the hype and fluff of most other photo podcasts and delves into real-world photography for normal humans. The down to earth presentation and to the point delivery is refreshing and informational in the best way. Not very technical, but an honestly good podcast to help steer your photographic approach. Give it a listen if you are learning or even advanced in photography. The insights and conversations are well worth a download.