Posts Tagged ‘Cameras’
When the I Heart Snapping team attended the BritMums Live conference a few weeks ago, it was definitely fair to say that the session we were most looking forward to was Julia Boggio‘s session on Advanced Blogging Photography. As two enthusiastic amateurs at best, we were hoping to learn some great tips from a proper professional photographer, and the session definitely didn’t disappoint as it was crammed full of useful tips for improving blog photography.
Julia started by talking about the misconceptions that great cameras take great photos; they don’t, its the photographer that does that. Now how many times have you heard those exact words here? She described a photographer as someone who paints with light and that it is light that makes a great photo and gives images interest. She explained that there are three different types of light that you are dealing with when taking photographs, and that how you use these affects the final photograph that you take and the effect it has.
First there is ‘key’ light which is the main and strongest light upon your subject. There is ‘fill’ light which is what lifts shadows and can be created by bouncing ambient light from a reflective surface. And finally there is ‘hair’ light which is an accent or back light which separates a subject from its surrounds and gives an image depth. These different light sources can be differently located for different photos or subjects. Being aware of them and how you use them can be the difference between a great shot, an okay shot and a rubbish shot.
If you’ve been reading the photography posts here on I Heart Snapping then you will have heard us banging on about how photography is generally most attractive in natural sunlight. Sunlight can be your ‘key’ light if if is in front of your subject (and behind you) or your ‘hair’ light if it is behind them (and you are shooting towards the sun). The sun’s rays travel in straight lines, so you do have to be careful about the effect that shadow can have on your photos and Julia suggested that when photographing people in natural light that it’s a good idea to get them to move their face around to make sure you avoid shadows. It can also be a good idea to use a reflector to bounce sunlight so that it also becomes your fill light.
She gave the simple tip of taking a piece of white paper outside using it to gage where the best light is; which is something I’ve tried out since and have found really useful just to bring my attention back to thinking about the best light and best angle for my photo. I definitely take more notice of how shadows affect my photography now and I have found myself repositioning things and using white cushions as reflectors to manipulate the light when I shoot.
Julia showed how she made a simple lighting box or tent using tracing paper, foam board and a ceiling tile, and how she had used it to photograph some garlic. She demonstrated how excluding light and using compact mirrors and carrier bags as diffusers can create a still life full of texture. If you take a lot of still life type photos she also said told us that having your key light come from the side creates far better texture. She also showed us how the position of light in portraiture can completely change the final look; ‘narrow’ shooting means the light comes from the side and you shoot into the shadowed side of the face, whereas with ‘broad’ shooting the light comes from the same direction as the camera and you shoot the lit part of the face. The key with portraits is that ‘narrow’ shooting is far more slimming and flattering on the face. So that’s something to remember next time you have your picture taken; make sure the light is to one side.
The whole talk was crammed full of examples of how to use everyday items like lamps, white cushions and a black dress to play with the light and create different looks with the overriding theme being that you have to play around to find what works. Add light, take it away, move it, bounce it around; it will all affect the resulting photo is different ways and you can’t learn quite how it will unless you try. Oh and demonstrating her opening point perfectly, every single image that Julia had taken and shown us had been taken on her iPhone. I think it would be fair to say that this left everyone feeling pretty impressed and also confident that it really isn’t the kit when it comes to great blog images, but what you do with it that counts.
Have you ever taken a photo and then looked at it only to realise that it has a yellowy or blue tint to it? However when taking the photo the light and the scene looked completely normal? The reason for this is that images taken in different lights have a different colour or temperature to them. E.g if you take a photo in artificial lighting it may come across as having a slightly blueish tint. There is a large range of temperatures and colours and this range is known as the Kelvin Scale.
White Balance is an important part of photography that people sometimes neglect to take into account. Put simply the reason we adjust white balance is to get the colours in our images as accurate as possible.
The naked eye won’t notice these slight changes in colour, but although our cameras are pretty damn smart, they sometimes don’t have the capabilities of making these adjustments automatically- it might need a little bit of help to get it spot on. In cooler light, blue or green, you may need to tell the camera to warm things up a bit and in warmer light, yellow or orange, you may need to tell it to cool the colour down.
Many DSLR cameras have special presets meaning that you can adjust the white balance really easily. Below are the settings on my Nikon camera:
Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. It generally is pretty good and can quite accurately estimate the colour and temperature, however for trickier lights I find it struggles.
Tungsten – this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under bulb lighting. It generally cools down the colors in photos.
Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots Really good for artificial lighting such as those horrible strip lights you get in certain places like schools.
Direct Sunlight – This is basically a ‘normal’ white balance setting. It generally will make the light slightly warmer.
Cloudy – this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘direct sunlight’ mode.
Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up slightly.
It is definitely worth playing around with the white balance settings and not just keeping it on auto as you may find that you like some of the results more. I shot my little piggy here at around 3pm in the afternoon in the house with a window behind me.
While the ‘Auto’ setting is ok, I much prefer the Fluorescent setting, it just makes the photo slightly warmer and more appealing. This is just an example but I have seen many shots that would have looked so much nicer if the white balance wasn’t set to auto. Auto is ok and good for snapshots, but if you want to get more creative with your photography then it is definitely worth having a play round with it. Be brave and take it off auto!
Access your white balance menu by going into your camera’s menu settings. The settings available will differ from camera to camera but just have a play around with it and try it out in different lights when you have a bit of time. You will be amazed the difference it can make to your photos.
I thought in our little composition master class this week that I’d talk about photographing children. I spend the vast majority of my time photographing my little boy and feel like I’ve learnt quite a lot about this in my time as a parent. If you read and take on board a couple of these little tips, then I can pretty much guarantee you will improve your pictures of children.
Children aren’t easy to photograph, and the difficulties of the task change as they change. But get it right and photographing children is not only easy but really fun, and gives you very cute results. What parent doesn’t want adorable photographs of their offspring? But this doesn’t mean that you need to pay someone to do it for you. You can get great pictures all by yourself.
I don’t profess to be a pro by any stretch of the imagination. But I do take an awful lot of pictures of children and these are the things that work for me.
Get Down To Their Level
By taking yourself and your camera down to their eye level, you enter their world and see it as they do. They are far more likely to want to interact with you and your camera if you are at a level where they can see everything that’s going on. Let them see your camera to get them interested, with older children let them take a photo themselves.
Young babies are especially tricky to photograph because they are so still. The temptation is often to photograph them from above as they lie on a mat or blanket, but lying down on that level with them will get you better and more natural shots. There is a place for photos ‘from above’ as they instantly make newborns look tiny and fragile if that’s what you’re after, but they will definitely have more personality in pictures taken on their level.
As they get older there are new challenges to photographing them, but working on their level is always worth doing. If you photograph them at or below their eye level but can distract them into looking up, you’ll get pictures where they look innocent and thoughtful. Smiley pictures where they look right at the camera will look playful. Pictures where they are looking down at a toy or an object will make them look contemplative and focused. So consider these things and thing about what you want to achieve.
Posing and fake emotion doesn’t read very well in pictures, especially pictures of children. So remove “Say cheese” from your vocabulary starting from now. It is far better to get children really engaged in an activity and take natural shots of them enjoying themselves, or to get them to shout and really laugh than to get a photo with a fake ‘camera smile’.
Keep Them Still
While newborns can be hard to photograph because they don’t do much, it can be harder still to photograph children as they get bigger and more mobile. Sometimes you just need them to stay still long enough for your photograph but they won’t play ball.
My biggest tip with toddlers is to make them a captive audience… literally! Find some way of keeping them contained and you’ll stand more chance of getting your shot. You may be able to keep them still by handing them a you or by singing a song and doing a crazy dance, but some of my best shots have happened when my son is quite literally stuck somewhere. Like in the bath. Or in his highchair. Laundry baskets are good too. Or toy boxes. I generally find that the novelty of being put inside something means that they’ll stay still that bit longer giving you a better chance of getting a photo.
I’ve found that with photographing bigger children that asking them to do something helps. Starting up a conversation will often do the trick. Tell them you just need them to stay still and answer some questions for you. Then make the questions as silly as possible so that they will relax and smile. Ask them to tell you jokes, to explain what they did this morning. And if in doubt resort to just asking “But why?” to every answer they give.
Let Them Explore
Children are naturally mobile and inquisitive creatures. If you think about the world from their perspective everything is a new adventure. So while it can be tempting to keep them still for a shot, sometimes ‘if you can’t beat them join them’.
Let them go, let them explore and follow them with your camera in hand. I often find that after taking some more posed shots that I end up liking the natural ones I take afterwards far more.
Catch Them Unawares
It may just be my personal opinion but I often find that the best photos of children are captured when they don’t know it’s happening. When they are inspecting a piece of carpet fluff, giggling with their friends or about to fall asleep. These little moments are what make up their childhoods and are lovely to capture for posterity.
But in order to catch those moments, you need your camera nearby at all times, with a charged battery ready to go. I never, and I mean NEVER, put my DSLR away in its bag when we are at home. It is always on the side in easy grabbing reach so that I can get the shot if something cute happens. This is why camera phones are so fantastic because they aren’t generally very far from your side. (Having said that, I’m a purist and I hardly ever take photographs using my phone. I’d rather use my camera any day because the better quality and resolution will make them easier to adapt later as needed.)
Take Lots of Photographs
If you take your children for a professional photo shoot, it will more than likely take an hour, possibly longer. In that hour a photographer will take literally hundreds of photographs. They might change their angle slightly or adapt their camera settings or even completely reposition everyone, but with each time they press the shutter they stand another chance of getting an awesome photograph. After your session they might show you 35-50 shots that made the cut.
They are the pros and they don’t expect to get a perfect shot in a single frame, neither should you.
In an average day I’ll take about 30-40 photos. Yes, everyday! Yes, I am obsessed. Some days it might be less but on days where I am after something specific it might be a lot more than that. On an average day, 3 or 4 shots might be of a standard that I’d use on my blog. Other days I get lucky and get lots of good ones.
But you’ll never get a good shot if you don’t keep clicking.
Photographers amateur and professional alike will bang on about light. But natural light really is best. You’ll get truer colours and better pictures with natural light than you’ll ever get with artificial light.
The sunlight on a child’s face makes for a beautiful simple photograph, whatever it is they are doing with themselves in the shot. And similarly children photograph beautifully in silhouette with the light behind them as they explore. So play around with where the light is in relation to them to get different effects.
I find photographing children really rewarding and really good fun. It can be hard work at times when they would rather play with your camera strap than play along with what you had planned, but the results can be amazing that it’s always worth the effort. My little boy has been the muse which kick started my love of photography and I can’t wait until the day he can look back and remember his childhood through photographs I took.
So grab your camera and get clicking. Take lots, move lots and let children be themselves in front of the camera.
Over the coming months we are going to learn all about how cameras work and all their little tricks to make your photos look really amazing. One burning question that we both often get asked is ‘What camera do you have?’ I on last count have five cameras, and I shall go into these in more detail later. A lot of people want to know whether it is worth buying a DSLR so we thought that we would help demystify them a little bit.
What is a DSLR?
DSLR is short for Digital Single Lens Reflex. That basically means that these cameras use a mirror positioned behind the camera lens to direct light towards the viewfinder when you are taking a photo. To put it even more simply, a DSLR is a camera which will have interchangeable lenses, meaning that you have greater creativity over your shots which you wouldn’t find in a point and shoot camera.
What do they do that my compact camera doesn’t?
It obviously depends on the model you have but DSLR’s offer you the greatest level of creative control, not least because you can swap lenses but also because of the wide range of menu options. For example with a DSLR you can manipulate exposure, focus and colour- something which we will be talking about lots over the coming months.
How much do they cost?
How long is a piece of string? DSLR’s start at around £300 for an entry level camera like the Nikon D3100 which comes with a kit lens as well. You can then opt to purchase a mid range model, like my own DSLR the Nikon D5100 which is for more enthusiasts or semi professional photographers for around £550. Serious DSLR’s that professionals use can cost thousands, for example the Canon EOS 5D Mark III which starts at a whopping £2890 without a lens. The best thing is to do your homework and pick on that has all the things that you require. When purchasing my recent DSLR I spent a lot of time looking at reviews online and asking friends. You can also pick up a bargain on ebay if you want to get into photography but don’t have a huge amount of money to spend. I recently sold my old DSLR on there for a really good price.
Should I get a Canon or a Nikon?
There are two main players in the DSLR market- Canon and Nikon. Obviously there are others such as Pentax and Sony but these are the two that yougenerally will hear of and everyone has an opinion on which is better. I heard someone once say that most professional photographers use Canon but then I heard that Nikon are better by far. When I bought my DSLR I opted for Nikon for a number of reasons. Firstly because I had owned a Nikon D50 for many years and really liked it, and secondly because most of the people I spoke to preferred Nikon. I spent a huge amount of time researching it and at the end there were tiny pro’s and con’s for both but Nikon had a few more functions that were geared towards me. It is worth spending time talking to others, and definitely go into a shop and play around with them. (for example Canon’s are generally slightly lighter than Nikon’s if you have smaller hands) Ultimately though they are both brilliant manufacturers who have been around for decades and so you know you will get a good camera with either- it just comes down to personal preference.
Will I get professional looking photos with a DSLR?
One of the things that most surprised me when I first got my DSLR was that yes the picture quality was so much better but I didn’t instantly get professional looking shots. It is not the camera that makes the shots amazing, it is the photographer, and it is all about your creative eye. So yes while a DSLR will give you all the features you need to potentially have fabulous, professional shots, you can get some amazing photos on your mobile phone or your compact camera just by having the creative ability to really frame a shot. However from the second I took my DSLR out the box, it had better image quality even when it was on the auto function.
What lens shall I get?
Most entry level and mid range DSLR camera’s come with an 18-55 kit lens but you can just purchase them body only. These lens are great to get you started but if you really want to get into serious photography then you will want to start purchasing more lens- unfortunately these come at a price. Lenses are very expensive and the better the lens, the more they go up to. We will be explaining more about lenses over the next few months.
What cameras do you own?
I get emailed about this a lot and I know that Lucy does as well. I own five cameras and I thought it would be best to list them all. First of all my ultimate baby is my Nikon D5100. I bought it a few weeks ago and it is what spurred me on to joining forces with Lucy and creating I heart snapping. We are by no means experts, in fact I am far from it, and I am hoping to learn all about my camera and post what I learn on here so people can see. My next favourite is my Panasonic Lumix LX5, my husband bought this for me a few years ago as a surprise and I absolutely love it. It takes great pictures and is so incredibly retro looking, which I love. Since upgrading to my DSLR, I use this one as more of a compact camera. It is great for people who want a few more functions than a compact camera but perhaps don’t want to commit to a DSLR. I then have my iPhone 4S, which is probably the camera I use most- after all iPhoneography is so much fun and I always have my phone on me. I also have a Canon A3000, which is just a simple point and shoot- I could not have lived without this when Mads was first born as I took millions of photos of her but now it has become a bit redundant since the iPhone camera has got better. Although I still recommend it as a great little camera for holidays and days out when you don’t want to risk taking a more expensive option out with you. Finally I have a Lomography Fisheye camera which my husband brought me as a present before we even got together many years ago- I haven’t had it out in ages and I keep saying that when the weather is nice we shall head out and use up a roll of film and see what we end up with. I used to find it magical when I got rolls of film developed, it makes me sad sometimes that those times have passed us by!
Over the next few months we will be talking a lot about the functions of a DSLR, essential equipment, how you can improve your photos and of course tips and techniques we have discovered. Together we will take our camera’s off auto!
Do you have a camera that takes amazing photos? If so recommend it to our readers below- it is always good to hear what other people own.