Posts Tagged ‘DSLR’
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.
One thing that I really struggled with when I first got my camera was getting my head around all the different modes and what the buttons did. Now obviously this varies from camera to camera, I have a Nikon D5100 so that will have different buttons to a Canon for example, but essentially most of the modes and functions are the same. I found the instruction booklet that came with the camera quite hard to get my head around and I wished they laid it out in a simple to understand way- it would have made life a whole lot easier.
So here is my guide below to the main buttons and functions on most cameras- I have left some of the more unique buttons that are specifically for certain makes of camera until another post. Most of the things I have pointed out here will be on most DSLR’s- although the pictures or buttons may look slightly different.
1. One of the most important parts of your camera- the lens. With DSLR’s you can change the lens. The one on my camera is the 18-55 kit lens but we will be talking about different types of lens in the next few weeks.
2. This is another important part of the camera- the shutter-release button, pretty fundamental in taking a photo!
Now I am going to talk about the mode dial- the icons may vary but most DSLR’s will have the same modes.
3. Auto- In full auto mode the camera selects all the settings for you, it is the easiest to use if you are not confident in knowing how to set up the camera to take a photo. However with auto mode you won’t be able to get the creative control that you would if you put the camera on manual mode. The camera will select all the settings based on the scene that it detects in front of the lens. You may be able to do things like turn the automatic flash off but other than that you don’t get an input. You can get some really great shots on auto so don’t be afraid of using it if you want an easy option.
4. Programmed Auto- On the programmed auto mode the camera still selects the aperture (f-stop) and the shutter speed (more about these in another post) so that the exposure is correct, but you can chose from a number of different combinations of both that will product optimal exposure and therefore the best photo. It is worth using for people who want to take a quick snapshot but still have a slight element of control.
5. Shutter priority Auto- This basically means that you select the shutter speed (ISO) yourself and the camera selects the f-stop (Aperture) in order to achieve the best results. When taking shots of fast moving objects, e.g animals or transport you would use this mode or when you want to use a long shutter speed at night time in order to blur motion. e.g car lights. When you want to photography fast moving objects or create motion blur, the shutter speed is the most important thing to consider.
6. Aperture priority Auto- This is the other way round to Shutter Priority- so you select the aperture (f-stop) and the camera will automatically select the shutter speed in order to give the best exposure. This mode is really useful when you want to maximise or minimise depth of field. Simply put depth of field is the range of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear sharp. You would use this for portrait photography or perhaps product photography too. We will do a whole post on Aperture but basically the lower the f-stop number the wider the hole and therefore the more light that enters the camera.
7. Manual- This means that everything is down to you. You control everything about the exposure, the aperture, the shutter speed and other aspects as well. However just because it is completely manual doesn’t mean that you need to know everything. In fact some of my favourite photos have been down to playing around with the manual setting on my camera. It can also be a great way of learning about exactly what shutter speed and aperture do to your photographs and how they effect them as you can see from your camera’s LCD screen exactly what settings you used to achieve the result.
8. Effects- Not all cameras will have this setting, but essentially it is just a way of doing photo effects on your camera if you wanted too, rather than doing it in post shot editing.
9. Macro- Macro photography is one of my favourite types of photography- basically it just means close up. Generally using this means that the background will blur so they don’t compete for attention with your main subject- e.g flowers photos or close up product photos.
10. Sports- Sport mode works a lot like shutter priority mode. i.e you would use it to freeze moving objects such as athletics or car racing. However in this mode the shutter speed is set high by default.
11. Child- Child mode works in the same way to portrait mode but it also has a faster shutter speed in order to stop blur from a moving and wriggly child! Clothing, toys and other backgrounds have slightly more vivid colours.
12. Landscape- This mode is a lot like Aperture but this time with a smaller aperture so you have a greater depth of field and therefore the whole image is a lot sharper. The smaller the aperture, the more of the area that will be in focus. But remember a small aperture means a larger f-stop number. Confusing I know but we will talk about this a lot over the next few months.
13. Portrait- This works in the exact opposite way to Landscape mode- it is set to a wider aperture therefore your subject will be sharp and the background will be a lot softer.
14. Scenes- Again not all cameras will have this function but basically this can help create other auto based scenes such as party/indoor, night portrait etc.
15. Auto No Flash- This is again something that not all cameras will have but it is essentially auto with the flash off.
So there you have it. The main modes of your camera and what you can do with them. These will be the same on most cameras so hopefully they will have help demystify them a little bit. Over the next coming months we will develop these ideas further. In the meantime hopefully it will encourage you to take your camera off auto, even if it is just only slightly off!
Remember a couple of weeks ago we started a little series called ‘Taking Better Photographs’? We talked about the basics of composing a shot; move for a different angle, look at the whole picture, fill the frame. Well this week we’re still talking composition, we’re still on the arty bit of photography before going on to the technical stuff in a few weeks. We’re all breaking in to this business really gently.
So for this week we’re going to be talking about a little trick, and a well known technique among anyone who has ever been on any sort of photography course, called the Rule of Thirds. It works on the principle of you lining up your pictures to a sort of grid which makes your photographs more visually appealing. I’m not personally a fan of the word “rule” because I think there are so many pictures out there which completely ignore this rule and are still appealing and dynamic, but it is a fun technique to play around with; both when you’re taking your photo and when editing it.
The basics are that you envisage your picture as being on a grid. The grid breaks up your picture into three sections both horizontally and vertically. You can then use this grid in a few different ways. I’ve used some examples below of photographs I have taken using the Rule of Thirds and pin pointed how it can help you to take effective and attractive shots.
You can place items of interest at the intersections of the lines. These spots are apparently where your eyes are drawn first when you look at a photograph, so it makes sense to consider that as you take or edit your photos.
The other thing you can do is line up any horizontal or vertical lines in your picture with the lines on the grid. This works particularly effectively with landscape photographs of scenery or if you are photographing people in front of some sort of landmark or view.
You can of course play around with this grid and use it to get some arty and interesting shots of your own. For example you might place the focus of your photo in just one third of the image. Like I said at the beginning; learn the rule, play with it and see what happens. Then feel free to break it.
One of the easiest ways to start getting your brain ‘switched on’ to this way of taking photographs is to edit some old ones. You can make an old photo obey the Rule of Thirds simply by identifying the focus and then cropping the photograph. Once you get use to seeing potential pictures in this way, they you can almost see the grid as you look through your viewfinder and will line things up accordingly.
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.