what_is_aperture_everything_you_need_to_know_about_exposure

Exposure – Everything You Need to Know About it

Today, I will tell you everything you need to know about exposure. The three most important pillars of photography – aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Whether you are a beginner or one who has been into cameras for a while now, but have not been able to get a hang of manual mode yet, I am hoping this post will make it easier for you to comprehend all that.

What exactly is exposure? When you take a picture, you allow light to enter your camera, and that exposes your camera’s sensor to light. Now, if more light enters than is required, the photograph will become too bright, or overexposed. And if less light enters than is required, then the photograph will be too dark and underexposed. So, we have to make sure that the right amount of light enters the camera, and results in a correctly exposed photograph.

The Camera's Viewfinder - You can see Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO at the bottom.
The Camera’s Viewfinder – You can see the Exposure Meter at the bottom.

The light meter you see in the viewfinder of your camera, helps you determine the correct exposure for every photo you want to take. If your meter is on the plus side, then that means that you are getting more light than required and your photograph will be overexposed and if on the negative side, that means that you are not getting as much light as is required and the photo will be underexposed. Now, how exactly is this measured? How we measure this light is in “stops”. So, if your meter is at +1, then that means that your photograph is overexposed by 1 stop. If it’s at -2, that means your photograph is under exposed by two stops. How much is a stop? Well, to put it simply, if you take a given amount of light and double it, you are moving up one stop. If you cut the light in half, you are going down one stop. So, if we go from 0 to +1, we are doubling the light. If we then go to +2, we now have 4 times the light we had at 0. Similarly, if we go from 0 to -1, we cut the amount of light in half. If we then go to -2, then we now have 1/4th the amount of light.

To settle the meter on this 0 point, or in other words, to achieve the correct exposure, the correct combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO is required.

The Exposure Triangle - ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture
The Exposure Triangle – ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture

No matter how excellent of an approach a person has with the artistic stuff in photography, not having good knowledge about some of the essential mechanics will always prove to be a barrier for him. So, what exactly are these mechanics of the camera that we need to understand? Let’s take a look:

 

Aperture:

what_is_aperture_everything_you_need_to_know_about_aperture_definition
Aperture diaphragm blades – Diaphragm refers to the blades in the lens which control the diameter of the aperture.

Simply put, aperture is the size of the opening found inside each lens through which light enters into the camera and reaches the sensor.

The amount of light that reaches the sensor is dependent on the span of this opening which is our aperture. Hence, The wider the opening / aperture, the greater flood of light passes through to the sensor, whereas the smaller this opening is, it leaves lesser physical room for light to get in.

This way, with the aperture as wide as it can go, you get a lot of light reaching the sensor, so it naturally results in a brighter exposure and as you can now expect with a small aperture, the exposure is darker.

Aperture is also referred to as the “f-stop” and is denoted as “f/1.4”. You would notice that these numbers are inversely proportional to the size of the aperture. What that means is that the smaller number means a bigger opening. And a bigger number means a smaller opening. It can get a little confusing, but as you’ll practice more and more, you’ll get the hang of it.

Every f-stop opens double the amount of area of the aperture / hole than its previous f-stop, which means that each f-stop lets in twice as much light as the previous one.

Aperture’s Role in Depth of Field

Aperture plays an extremely important role in bringing dimension to any image. When you increase or decrease your aperture, it affects the depth of field of your photograph. What exactly is depth of field? Depth of Field (DOF) is that amount or area in your shot that will be in focus. Large depth of field means that most of your image will be in focus, while shallow depth of field means that only part of the image will be in focus and the rest will be blurred.

what_is_aperture_everything_you_need_to_know_about_aperture_depth_of_field
Relation of aperture with depth of field.

With a small aperture or a small opening, the rays of light that enter, are greatly collimated. Which is a term used for light when the rays are smoothly parallel to each other and are accurately aligned. This gives you a sharp focus. The more you constrict the diaphragm of the aperture, the more crisp focus you get.

verything_you_need_to_know_about_aperture_depth_of_field_lens_f-13
Aperture F/13

Similarly, with a wider aperture, the light rays tend to disperse and spread all around, except, only the rays that go closely with the focus point are collimated. This results in the point of focus to be sharp only and the rest of the area around it will become blurry.

verything_you_need_to_know_about_aperture_depth_of_field_lens_verything_you_need_to_know_about_aperture_depth_of_field_lens_f-5.6
Aperture F/5.6

Hence, a wide aperture, that is: low f-number will give you a shallow depth of field. While a small aperture, that is: high f-number will give you a greater depth of field.

Relation With Other Two Pillars of Exposure

As the light coming in and reaching the sensor depends on the diameter of the aperture, and how blurry or focused you want your photograph to be depends on aperture also, varying it according to your need will require for you to balance the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed or ISO or ambient light or a combination of them.

what_is_aperture_everything_you_need_to_know_about_aperture_exposure_shutterspeed_iso_relation

Since when the aperture is very large and wide open, a lot of light reaches the sensor, this allows you to set a faster shutter speed. Which means you will be able to capture images faster. When your aperture is small, the amount of light will be lesser too, so this will require slower shutter speed.

While buying a lens, make sure to check what maximum aperture it offers. As the bigger the aperture opens, the better it is considering all the things we went through in this post.

A lens with a good small number / wider opening ability is known as a fast lens. Minimum aperture is not that important to worry about as almost all lenses come with at least f-16 as their minimum aperture and that is more than enough in most situations.

Shutter Speed:

Shutter is a screen that opens and closes over the sensor of the camera in a fraction of a second that allows the sensor to see the light. As the aperture controls the amount of light entering the camera, shutter speed controls how long the light enters the camera – the duration for which the shutter remains open.

Shutter speeds are usually expressed as: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60 and so on. Each one in this series is approximately the half of its previous one and are a fraction of a second.

Just as aperture plays a part in the depth of field, shutter speed has some really useful qualities too, besides its main job. It has a strong connection with movement.

verything_you_need_to_know_about_shutter_speed_exposure_freezing_motion_action_photography_motion_blur_slow_shutter_speed
Displaying the “haze” with slower shutter speed.

If you want to show speed and motion in your moving subject, you use a slower shutter speed (for example, 1/10). It blurs the action and displays it as a haze, usually used in shooting waterfalls and car light trails. Shooting at slower shutter speeds require a strong stance and a steady hand as the shutter will be open for a longer time and will take in every single movement, even as slight as a jerk of a hand, and this usually can ruin any picture.

If you’re holding the camera in your hand while shooting at slow shutter speeds, camera shake is inevitable. So, upto what shutter speed is it that you can hold the camera in your hand? Some people say that 1/60th of a second is that point, but the correct value is actually 1/focal length of your lens. So, if you’re shooting on a wide angle lens at 10mm, you can take your shutter speed up to 1/10th of a second. If you’re shooting a telephoto lens of 200mm, it’d mean that you can’t hand hold the camera and go slower than 1/200th of a second as that might result in camera shake. Because at those focal lengths, even the camera shake is multiplied. If you go below this, the best option would be to use a tripod or take a firm support with something to steady your arms.

verything_you_need_to_know_about_shutter_speed_exposure_freezing_motion_action_photography_freeze
“Frozen” action

In order to freeze the motion as it is, a general rule of thumb is to keep the shutter speed as fast as you can. The higher the number, the faster the shutter speed and the faster the shutter speed the sharper the image, that is: no motion blur.

Shutter speed depends on a number of things such as the source of light and it’s direction, the amount of light, how fast your subject is moving, distance between the subject and your lens, the position and angle you went for, etc.

Slower shutter speeds allow the camera to take in more light, therefore it can help to brighten up an image if it is dark otherwise. Similarly, fast shutter speed will quickly roll over the sensor and close, as a result it won’t let the sensor register the light for long enough so if an image is too bright you can balance the exposure by shooting up your shutter speed.

ISO:                  

Whenever you’re shooting, the first thing you check in your camera should be your ISO. In traditional (film) photography ISO was the indication of how sensitive a film was to light. It was measured in numbers (you’ve probably seen them on films – 100, 200, 400, 800 etc). The lower the number, the lower will be the sensitivity of the film.

A high ISO results in a brighter photo in comparison to a low ISO. However, each of the elements in the exposure triangle has a side-effect, that affects the photograph in another way as well. When you increase the ISO, you end up getting small grain or noise, on your photographs. So, the higher the ISO value, the more noise you would have in your photographs. Here, we see two photographs shot on different ISOs and you can see that the one with 1600 ISO has a lot of noise on it.

verything_you_need_to_know_about_shutter_speed_exposure_photograpy_iso_comparison
Left: ISO 100 and Right: ISO 1600 – Photo by © HuttyMcphoo

As every camera is different, it is best to take a few test shots with your camera to see in what conditions and at what levels your ISO begins to produce these grains. The point at which this noise comes in the photo will be different for every camera, and that’s also one of the important considerations before buying a camera.

Things to determine what your ISO should be:

Light: How much light is available to you from your surroundings. If you have a lot of light available to you, you can make do with a fast shutter speed and an open aperture, and hence would not be needing to increase the ISO in order to get the correct exposure. But on the contrary, if there’s low-light, then you would be needing to compensate for it by increasing the ISO, as your aperture and shutter speed might reach their limits and you would still have an underexposed image.

Grain: Many a people like to get a vintage old-school look, which has grains on their photographs. So if you would like for grain to appear on your photograph, a higher ISO will help you achieve a grainy outcome, while with a low ISO you get a smooth even image.

Tripod: If you have a tripod handy, you wouldn’t need to increase the ISO as you can always balance the light with a slower shutter speed. As slower shutter speeds mean that there is a chance of camera-shake, it is vital that there be a tripod in those situations so that the camera is placed on a steady surface.

Moving Subject: If you have a moving subject, then even a tripod would not be able to stop the motion blur. Because while the camera might have a steady grip, the moving subject will appear to have a motion blur. In order to avoid that, I would need to bump up my ISO, so I can get a faster shutter speed.

Reciprocals

Now that we have seen ISO, aperture and shutter speed individually; let’s take a look at how they are related to each other.

As we understood, the primary function of all these settings is to control the amount of light the picture gets. Or in other words, it controls the exposure. Changing any of these settings by one stop would result in our exposure moving one stop. So, now let’s take a look at a situation. Let’s say that you are getting the correct exposure (exposure meter at 0) at f2.8 and 1/500th of a second. Now, f2.8 means that the depth of field would be shallow and 1/500th of a second means that there will not be any motion blur. Now, let’s say that the picture you want to take requires that the depth of field not be shallow, but more things be in focus. Can I close down my aperture? Sure I can. So, let’s say, I close down my aperture one stop, taking it from f2.8 to f4. While that will affect the depth of field, it will also affect my exposure, making it underexposed by one stop. The change in aperture is taking my exposure meter to minus 1. Now, how can I get the correct exposure without altering the aperture? By changing the shutter speed to 1/250th. If my aperture caused the meter to go down one stop, I can use my shutter speed to bring my meter up by one stop. So, you will get the exact same exposure in both these settings.

Reciprocals - You can achieve the same exposure at different settings
Reciprocals – You can achieve the same exposure at different settings

The same exposure actually can be achieved on various different settings. If you close down the aperture by one more stop bringing it to f5.6, you’ll have to slow your shutter speed to 1/125th to get the same exposure. Similarly, if aperture goes to f/8, shutter speed will have to go to 1/60th of a second in order to get the same exposure.

This is dictated particularly by the result that you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to achieve a shallow depth of field, then you will first decide on your aperture that will help you achieve that and then set a shutter speed that brings the meter down to 0. If you are trying to get motion blur, then you will have to set your shutter speed first at a value which allows you to get motion blur and then set your aperture to a value that brings the meter down to 0.

This can sound confusing in the beginning, but you have to keep practicing it in order to get the hang of it.

If you are feeling confused, then Canon has an amazing tool to help you practice it. Just go to this link: Canon Explains Exposure and play with this tool until you get the hang of how exposure works and how the three elements in the exposure triangle are related to each other.

This is the very foundation of photography and if you are able to master this, then you will be able to take your photography to new heights.

How_to_create_photography_contract_sign_signature_agreement_deal

Photography Contract – Let’s Get Signing

Let’s say you have gained your client’s trust, it’s now time to take things a step ahead – to get a contract signed by them. Having a photography contract signed will make sure you appear professional and serious about what you do. A mere verbal agreement will not get you anywhere. It only leaves you with some grim realizations and is full of uncertain outcomes. Thus it is always better to take a few precautionary measures and save yourself from any regrets later.

Contracts are a source to provide protection for all the parties involved in a deal. It has always been recommended generally by more experienced people that no matter what work you step into, if it engages more members than yourself, sign a contract among all of you.

Especially in today’s world where everyone sure is allowed to sue someone for a wrong step they take, but with some courts offering justice while some taking on forever to do so, dishonesty just seems to be prevailing with each day.

You will encounter many clients who will actually appreciate you for being so professional and having a contract policy, but, on the other hand when it will come to your friends and relatives, they for some reasons seem to take offence by it. They feel like you do not trust them enough and will not be hesitant in stating their thoughts out loud too. What they fail to understand is that it is not just for you – the photographer – but for their own good as well and it will only improve things for everyone. If such a situation occurs, you can politely explain this to them.

Fundamental Information

It is a strong advice to build a contract which is easy to grasp, crisp and to the point! You would not want for your contract to be very long and look daunting, for this may make it too cumbersome for your client to make a decision, and leave you altogether. Just some essentials, so you have a written proof of the deal you have with them should be enough. If it is possible, get all the things that we discuss in this article to fit in a single page, as the lengthier the document, more intimidating it becomes.

The basic information may include:

Your information: Contact info, your address, e-mail address etc.

Client information: Much of the same things as your own.

Time and date of the contract as well as the shoot

Location and duration of the shoot.

Your signature.

Client’s signature.

What Does The Deal Entail

After the fundamental stuff, comes the second most important thing, what are the two of you making this deal for? What is it that the two parties will give and receive? Hence, you mention the things that will be delivered from your side first and then you can affirm what amount will you expect to receive in exchange for that.

Mention how many photographs you will hand over to them, of what size the photos will be, will you be providing them with both RAW + JPEGs or just the JPEGs, will they be printed or only digital? Will they receive it on a DVD? Do they require any framed photographs? If so, then what kind of frames do they want? Whether or not they want the photos to be preserved in a leather album or do they have some other preference, etc.

You will also have to inform them of the time they will be receiving all of this. Having it mentioned and signed upon on the contract will save you from the “little too much” inquiries the eager clients are known for.

How_to_create_photography_contract_sign_signature_agreement_deal_key_success_growth
Look after the key for growth and success – Photo by © Kai Stachowiak

You might want to remember that you must only put those things in there that you really know you can pull off. So that when the client weighs the final product and service against the contract and all that was promised in it, they can breathe a sigh of relief that it was worth it. You want them to like you after all. Good relationship with your clients is one of the keys for successful business.

The Duration

When you do not specify the exact duration of the shoot and make it crystal clear to everyone involved that the shoot will begin at so and so, and it will end after so and so hours, people will run you down with extra load and you will not be able to avert it too.

No matter how much you say you will not let that happen to you, such a sticky situation always finds its way to you and surrounds you in a manner where you are not able to do anything about it. Happens to almost everybody at least once and stays with them forever – if they plunge into the business without prior consultations and learning from others experiences.

How_to_create_photography_contract_sign_signature_agreement_deal_professional_tie_smart
Enter the world of professionalism

You have been told, so beware. Mention in bold for how long you will be working and if they want you to stay any longer, it will take extra money. For that, you can set an amount you will charge by the hour if someone does ask you to work a few additional hours.

Payment Description:

You might want to literally spell out where their money will be going. Let them know that whatever amount you are asking for is not just your fee and that it takes a lot of things and effort to end up with some brilliant shots and they will be the ones who would have to pay for it.

Although, whilst you are at it, just make sure to keep it toned down a bit. Reflect on all that you feel you should add into the cost of the agreement as you do want for your clients to know where their money is going but, you must simplify it enough, so they will not be able to ask you to leave some things out to save their money.

Also, include a due date for the payment and decide what you want to do if a payment is not made on time. If you think you should stipulate a fine for the payments that are late, then mention the late fees policy.

Act Smart

Having a signed contract was already a smart move but let’s say we want you to become one extra fine entrepreneur. You accumulate advance payment on the day they seal the agreement with their signatures. Therefore, mention how much the deposit will be, in the contract, and sign a receipt for the clients in exchange for the money they entrust you with.

You can have 50% of the agreed amount as deposit, like many people do or it could be any other amount you feel would be more suitable in your case.

It is usually non refundable and you take it because you will be putting in your time, energy and efforts and this accord will also mean no other clients and business for that period of time. It makes certain that the client as well as you, the photographer, stay sincere to the contract, be present on time, think twice about rescheduling  and cancelling mid way.

You may collect the rest of your payment on the day of shoot or after you have delivered the photos or such and such days before the event. Whichever time is most agreeable for you as well as the client.

How_to_create_photography_contract_sign_signature_agreement_deal_professional_smart_payment_money
What method do you prefer for the payment to be made? – Photo by © Michal Jarmoluk

Also, make sure to have them informed through the contract about the methods of payment you agree with. Do no leave this matter vague for now, thinking you will see to it “later” when the time comes – no, just take a professional approach and do not leave any detail out, no matter how minor, so that there is no confusion and misunderstandings “later”.

Backing Out

Clearly state the policy for when the client wants to back out of the agreement. Have them know that if they opt for such a thing, they must inform you X days before the shoot.

How_to_create_photography_contract_sign_signature_agreement_deal_professional_smart_payment_money_cancel_refund_sign
Signatures, refund, paperwork, headache… better to not let them cancel at all than to deal with all this – Photo by © Steve Buissinne

Mention the amount of money that will be non refundable when they inform you within the stated time frame and what will happen if they notify you past that period. And prepare a cancellation form and receipt for these kind of situations. Have them fill the form and sign on the receipt too.

Copyright and Usage Terms

The photos you take for your clients are a great way to advertise yourself, you would want to use them in your banners, on your webpage or social media, etc. Some clients would not have any issue with this whereas some might not appreciate this move if you had not taken their permission before pasting their pictures all over the internet. And when a client takes offense, it can become a legal issue as well.

Hence, it is best to acquire proper authorization from your clients to use their photos for attracting new customers. You can add a segment in the contract where you mention this matter and have them sign there too. Clearly state all the copyright laws and conventions in this section to make sure that everybody knows and gets them, to avoid any mess.

It would also be best to consult an attorney about the copyright and licensing laws in your country and mention those on the photography contract as well, because unless you’re working for the corporate sector, many will not have any idea about them and share your images with third-parties without your consultation and permission, when they should be acquiring a usage license from you, for which they are required to pay you a fee.

*Disclaimer: This article has only been written as a guide to inform you of the key factors you should look out for, while crafting a photography contract. For any legal advice, you may consult an attorney.

Start off great with these basic elements and when you have gained some experience for yourself, you will know more as to what needs to be added or changed according to your specific genre and style of work. Good Luck!

 

How To Name Your Photography Business

We  went through the road map of setting up your own photography business, a while ago, today we will discuss something equally important, directly related with starting your business in this field, without which it is impossible for you to shine in the market, and get as many clients and work as any entrepreneur would love to. It is the NAME for your photography business.

Not JUST a Name:

You see, naming a business is not a matter that should be left for the last or given less importance, because it is actually the first thing which will make you known to people. Which will let the market acknowledge you and your work. It becomes your identity.

_How_to_name_your_photography_business
Photo by © Sherman Geronimo-Tan

This is why a brand and a product are never treated as something equal. A product is what you provide for the clients – or you may call it service, in this case – but, a brand, it is what is in the mind of the clients. It is something for which they will be ready to pay extra. And this extra money, will never be for the product or the service itself, but for the perception and class they find in your product / service, which makes it a brand, and makes your identity prominent.

So, while naming your photography business, or any business for that matter, keep in mind that you need to give it a Brand Name and not just a name, if you want it to become promising, lasting and most importantly a brand. A brand name can be based on a single term, symbol or design, or it can be a combination of them all, which must signify the services you offer and differentiate you from your competitors. Should be iconic, simple and independent.

Have You Done Your Homework?

Name_your_photography_business_logo_icon_ways_how_when_what_where_why
Have you solved this yet?

What I call homework here has a lot to do with all that we went through in the photography business post. At least the basic research, fulfillment of the essentials, mandatory requirements and all that, are required for naming. Yes, I did write above that you should not leave the name game for last, but there are some things and facts you do need to get straight before you begin with finding the most suitable name for your business. Knowing these things will make the process less confusing and brainstorming will be much easier too.

Some of the things can be:

What do you offer with this business?

What is it that the clients get while working with you which they could not have gotten anywhere else?

What is your unique selling proposition? USP in other words. Anything which differentiates you from others out there in the same market as you?

Name_your_photography_business_fashion
Who do you plan to serve?

Are you following any particular way of segmentation? That is, if you are a fashion photographer for example, are you focusing on aspiring models, designers or is it the fashion magazines you are interested in the most? Or did you go deeper into considering the following thoroughly?

  • Age factor
  • Income
  • Family Status
  • Residence Location
  • Work Location
  • Likes / Dislikes
  • Preferences
  • Values and so on.

What are your competitors doing? What approach have they taken with their names? Are they following the same pattern as most people do with their names or have they gone for something unique and catchy? If they have done this, how can you come up with something even better and totally different to stand out among them all is what you should think about.

Your target audience and the genre you have chosen for yourself are equally important to consider. For they are the ones who will be your prime concern.

Your pricing and positioning matters too. Would you like to go for an “exclusive” kind of brand personality or would you like to stay more on the average side?

All these things that I mentioned are some of those essentials I was talking about that you must know prior to your name search. If you have time then you should definitely read our post on business of photography also, to get a better idea of all this in detail.

Your Own Name

This is one of the most common ways to give your business a name. And it definitely has a few drawbacks also. When you go Google your own name, it is always very likely that you will find several other people owning businesses with that or a similar name. Unless of course if you have a unique name you do not need to pay attention to what I just said, but for people who have a very common name, you are in for some work.

Name_your_pName_your_photography_business_logo_icon_wayshotography_business_fashion
An example of a photographer’s own unique name

You sort of lose the aspect of distinctiveness and in today’s world your individuality is what gets you more recognition. I am not saying that you should completely refrain from going with your name but if you are looking for something more creative, keep reading!

Explore Other Languages

This is a pretty cool idea to try. You can think of a word that means something to you and search for the same in other languages. This can make your brand appear cultured and foreign, and they’ll definitely land you with a unique brand image.

Where You Live

This might sound really boring, but it has some benefits attached. You would want for your brand to show up easily and at the top of all search engines. And the name of towns and places are so common that it actually becomes an advantage when it comes to keywords and search engine results and more business. Although, you will have to make sure no one else in the town already owns something in the same category with the same name.

Go Random

This is more on the creative and fun side. It allows your mind to wander freely in wider boundaries and you can do so much here. There is a brainstorming trick I am sharing next that works really well with this one and which actually makes sure your random does not end up being exactly that – random – in fact no, it is so fool proof that even the random things come out polished and loaded with a meaning when it goes through all the process that trick is based on.

Now let’s head on to the tricks that will help you come up with unique names.

Brainstorming Tools:

Using Mind Maps Effectively

Once you understand how to take notes in Mind Map format, you can develop your own principles for taking them further. The subsequent suggestions can help you draw impactful Mind Maps.

Mind_Map_Mindmap_Guidlines_photography_name_tricks_tips_solutions_business
A quick guide to learn how to organize all those thoughts!

Use Single Words or Simple Phrases. Many words in normal writing are padding, as they ensure that facts are conveyed in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read. In Mind Maps, single strong words and short, meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.

The 40 Box Rule

printable_40_boxes_rule_photography_name_business_how_to_organize_thoughts_tricks_tips
Here is a printable sheet of 40 boxes to save you the work. Go ahead, print it, fill it, pick one and live it!

This is a very valuable way to reach good decisions. It is a bit lengthy but works really well when your mind is block and you feel like you can’t come up with anything good, try this trick and you will be amazed by its ability to get a whole stock of ideas out of you.

Make a grid of 40 boxes on a sheet. Start writing / drawing one idea in one box. For this part focus only on quantity. Right now, you only have to fill up the 40 boxes with whatever name that comes to you, regardless of it being nice or making sense. Take inspiration from things you see around you, things you like, stuff that matters to you the most, things that are relevant to your photography genre, related to photography in general and so on. Just let the randomness flow without hesitation.

printable_40_boxes_rule_photography_name_business_how_to_organize_thoughts_tricks_tips
A little sample to elaborate what I said about letting your randomness flow – Just get it out. You will catch the proper vibes along the way.

Once you are done with filling up all the boxes, try and merge these ideas and names with each other and see if there are any two words you wrote that sound brilliant when put together. Or they can inspire you to form another better name. Judge the ideas and shortlist them to 20, this time focusing on quality.

When you have the 20 best or favorite names separated, keep short listing them further and finally select the 1 that defeats all. Or repeat the process until you get something to your satisfaction.

Remember To Consider:

The thoughts and emotions someone feels when they see your logo. Does it actually appeal to your target audience? Is it delivering the right message?

Be sure to double check if the name is readable in terms of linguistic difficulty / technical language. Is everyone able to pronounce it easily or it causes trouble when someone tries to say it too fast? Try to make it as short and crisp as possible, for such names are easier to remember.

TIPS:

  • Keep it simple stupid

When you are selecting the name, keep in mind that you will be making a logo out of it – a memorable one at that. So stick to the one which will be most legible when you incorporate it into the logo design and simple enough so that it has a good recall value – easy to decipher and easy to remember.

  • Know what it means

Do YOU know what your brand name means? Or what your whole logo means for that matter? Even your random should have a logic going behind it. If there is a dot in your logo, you must have a concrete reason behind that mere dot, which will not exactly be “mere” anymore and that is the point. Show people how serious you are that you even took time to put so much thought behind just your brand identity / logo – “think of how serious and good this person might be with his work!”

Do not over do it though. Your name and the collective logo should have a meaning but that does not mean you overdose it with a handful of concepts that it loses the essence and whatever that you really wanted to represent, just diminishes underneath all that weight of other things on top. Remember, keep it simple stupid!

  • Get the tone right

Okay, this is important fellas. Many a times It happens that even when you have tried your hardest to give your logo a meaning and a proper logical explanation to go with it, it still does not convey the same thing to the audience as you had thought. For example, you meant for it to sound sweet but instead it got rather too cutesy for most of the audience’s taste and they made an image of you – the owner – being an immature or say unprofessional in their heads.

So, focus on getting the tone right as well. If it is supposed to be sweet then that is exactly how it should sound to me. If it is supposed to sound posh then not in anyway should your audience feel like you got a bit too arrogant there.

  • Make it future-proof

You want your business to flourish and prosper and all that, but just think for a second, how would – let’s say – Cutie Pie Photography sound a few years from now, when you have grown in your line of services, you have become the BOSS and have people running under you and all the works that come with fame? Er… yeah, not so classy!

This is why you must pick out a name that is FUTURE PROOF, note the emphasis people, it is just so important to keep in mind while you are at it, because although no one can stop you from changing the name later, but that comes with a lot of things kept at stake, identity recognition from scratch for instance. The previous name had made its place in people’s minds all over who-knows-till-where-you-had-reached! Therefore it is always better to keep a check on such things during the first time rather than getting disturbed by them at a later stage.

  • Plan your logo redesign

It means to have your logo designed in a few different ways, like planning what shape, size, look or feel it can be transformed into somewhere in the future, if need be, while still remaining close to the origin it was born with, embracing the same meaning it held the first time. It is like planning the evolution of your brand identity and checking if it does have that potential to be changed without having to change the soul beneath it, something like what Coca Cola and Pepsi did. Have you seen the evolution of their logos from the beginning till now? If not then be sure to get a look at that!

  • Double meaning

Try giving your name a double meaning. Have you come across such brand names and taglines that when you read them at first, they tell you one thing, but a while later you realize… oh wait, did they mean, this other thing that I think they meant? And the answer is yes! They did mean that other thing as well as the first plain meaning. But this time, this was deliberate and a well thought calculated approach.

It is a bit tricky but if you think you can pull it off nicely, go ahead and give it a shot. Before finalizing though, run it through a test of asking as many people as you can to make sure they do get it.

  • Domain available?

The name you are choosing should be something that is easy to find a website domain for. Think of the horror when you find out that the name you went through so much for is not available to you as a domain. But, fear not friends, this was exactly the reason I have suggested to you these brainstorming tools, which will make sure you end up with something totally unique, that which no one already owns anything with!

 

So, these were some tips I could offer to help you with creating and choosing a cool name for your photography  business. But, all of this does not in any way mean it is mandatory that only people who go through these steps will get loads of clients and work. Nope, this is just a way to set yourself off on the right track for future prosperity.

It is always possible that people who never did anything like this and started off just like that will be earning bags full of money and fame because they were great at personal skills and networking. These two things can get you to more places than a name. Hence, as you choose that one perfect name for your business, do not forget that it works best when you combine it with great P.R skills – get them polished too!

Photography Portfolio by Joey Lawrence

Building a Great Photography Portfolio

Are you all set to build your very own photography portfolio? But, let me guess, you are confused as to what you should put in there, which piece of art should you choose to display and which ones would be better kept unseen? Need some help? We have got you covered!

Building a photography portfolio is not an easy task – I hear you, people. If you are anything like me, you end up liking a load of photographs, when you only have the option of choosing a few. Being able to take great photographs is one thing, while choosing between them is considered an entirely different but equally important matter. Everything depends on what we show.  I have come to terms with the fact that learning photography is not as hard as selecting the best shots out of the many photos you take.

And then comes the designing and  the presenting part. Nowadays, with technology rising to greater heights, your option is not just limited to a printed, hard copy, booklet form of portfolio anymore. There is the option of personalized websites and blogs, social media, forums designed particularly for showcasing people’s work and so on. But, as you must have noticed, most of the places are digital.

This has kind of evoked a silent war in the minds of the people in the photography industry. For, some believe that Print is still a better choice, whereas the others are in favor of opting for Digital. Honestly, as is the case in marketing and business, so, in photography, I personally feel, it all depends on who your target audience is.

And here we have our first and the main point to begin this short lesson with.

  1. Identify the Audience:

It can make a world of difference when you identify and focus on the people you really need to connect with, whom you want to provoke with your work or who you want to advertise your art to. If your targeted spectators demand print, you give them print, if they prefer digital, you go with what they want. Simple as that.

Only, you will have to do some prior research for it of course, you might need to look up on the set of audience you will be presenting your work to in the near future – God bless you – gain a bit of information about them and you will need to be aware of their preferences and everything. Not really a big deal, it only sounds daunting – think positive!

Then the most crucial thing to keep in mind is that you only show your clients the images which are relevant to their demand. For example, let’s say you handle weddings as well as food photography quite nicely. Both are different genres with different set of people with their own unique wants and demands. If some clients come to you for wedding, you will only focus on getting them to admire your wedding photography portfolio first.

Later, when they are about to leave after sealing the deal with you, you can probably mention that you do food photography as well and if they are interested, you can then have them look at your food photography also, for any future appointments if they ever need a food photographer or anything like that. But, this is only for when things go smoothly with respect to the actual, real matter they are there for.

  1. Weigh The Worth

Choosing-selection-portfolio-photography-worth-weigh
Every photo will have its own story

And here we are again! The selection. I am sorry, we cannot do anything about this annoying matter, one just needs to go through this step. You need to tell a viewer  in the first few photos only that you are worth it! No one has so much time now to go through a ton of pictures to finally land on a decision of whether they want to hire you or not. Besides, it is impossible to include all your favorites, which who knows, might be a thousand if you take photographs religiously.

If this really is the case, then you can make two portfolios and let one of them hold 15 – 20 best of the best-est photographs you have ever taken! And let the other one have  100 best of the best photos. This second one will be for when your clients want to see more of your work. Plus, it will give you that satisfaction also, of being able to include more of your work in there.

In order to make this step less painful, have someone who’s opinions and suggestions you trust, have a look at your photos and let them help you decide. It can be one person or a group of people also. But, it is a good idea to follow, as us photographers, we tend to get bias sometimes with some photos because we know how much work and effort went into such and such photo. And, this way we sometimes ignore an image that did not take as much work, but has something really amazing going on in it that we are unable to see after going through so many of our hard work of photographs.

  1. In Case of Printing

Photography-Portfolio-Print-book-folder-size-style
Photo by © SplitShire

If you decide to go with print, you will need to think upon how big or small you want your photos to be. It is necessary that you do it before buying yourself a portfolio folder, so that when you begin your hunt for it you will know exactly what to look for.

Secondly, for print, the quality of paper you choose to display your work on, should be excellent, because this will matter a lot. It can literally change the appearance of your image. Not too much, but still to some extent. Like for instance, Matt finish paper comes with tiny grains on it, and it looks great with a certain type of photos such as a rugged scene, a shot from an old dirty alley, etc. whereas glossy paper is a super smooth sheet and it also goes best with many images which would not look better on any other paper than this one

So, a good way to find out which paper suits your photography the best, is to have a single image from your collection printed out on the short listed papers you like a lot and are of great quality too. It will make it easier for you to decide the finest of them all.

You can also decide to go with a photo book. These are a great way of displaying your work. There are services like Blurb that make the job really easy, and you get a great looking photo book to show off your work. The bonus here is that you can even sell your portfolio book on Blurb or Amazon through their service, which would mean more recognition and an extra income on the side for you.

  1. When Going Digital

Photography-Portfolio-Digital-Web
Photo by © Sarah Zucca

Your requirement is digital? You got it. Knowing your target audience and your genre solves everything! A children photographer’s website will have to go with the look that the field calls for and similarly, a wildlife photographer’s web page will be telling a different story. The wildlife one can simply not have a bow and candy background. Thus, just go with what your genre and clients will agree with.

Make sure that your images are set to enlarge when clicked upon, as anyone who visits sites that have images, like to see them as big as their screens would allow.

  1. Presentation Counts

A general tip for both print and digital. Try to keep high contrast between the background and your photographs, so it makes your images pop out and they are able to hold their own aura and leave a firm impression. Your presentation will count too. Consider giving the photos a border, or try arranging the order of the pictures in a way so as to indicate a particular emotion, feel or to make a point that instantly catches the attention of anyone seeing them. Have the most impactful photos appear first.

  1. A Trick to Engage Them

Consider giving your photos a caption or a short description. They help engage the people looking at photos because humans have this natural inclination to know more about something they like. If you have made sure that they like what they see in your portfolio, then they will definitely want to know the story behind all that you have displayed.

Building-a-photography-portfolio
For instance, I would love to know the story behind this image.
  1. Up to Date

Keep updating your portfolio. It will be easy with the web but might end up being a bit costly in print – but who would care when you will be getting a great deal of clients and opportunities? Also, do not make the mistake of replacing all the old ones with newer ones (this goes especially for the print people out there), just add and replace with the ones that have broken records in your history of preserving time in photos.

And that is about it! You have successfully created your own portfolio! Thumbs up for you! Oh but, always remember, the more personalized your stuff is, the more it will have YOU in it. Be as original as you can, while of course staying within the essential boundaries. Originality is always appreciated, at least now it is a common observation that people have began showing respect and give value to anything and anyone who stands out because of their uniqueness.

Like always, best wishes for all our readers and hope this post will help you in creating a stunning portfolio and bagging more clients with your photography work.

Photo by © Angelika - personal-photography-projects

18 Personal Photography Projects to Keep You Motivated

Are you finding it hard to take time out for your love of photography while keeping up with your daily chores, work or studies? And you feel like you just need to find something to help you with improving your skills without having to put in much time? Thankfully there are lots of ways to keep you in practice.

A personal photography project is a great means to stay connected to photography no matter what you are doing at any stage of life. Whether you are a beginner struggling to build a stupendous portfolio or you are already a pro photographer looking to break the monotony you seem to have developed in your routine, taking up a project and sticking to it will help you in many ways.

Photography projects are a matter of commitment and dedication. If you truly wish to benefit from this exercise you must be willing to manage the time your preferred task requires. Besides, the following projects that I chose to share with you, are tremendously fun, will keep you interested throughout and are are easily do-able even with our fast paced lives.

Here are the ones I think anyone can manage between their busy routines.

1. Project 365

This project requires for you to take a photo every single day for a whole year. These photos can be of anything. But the main purpose behind it is to keep oneself dedicated and photograph on a regular basis. It may sound very easy but being consistent is something that does not come naturally to most people.

Let me take a photo first! - Photo by © Jill Wellington
Let me take a photo first! – Photo by © Jill Wellington

There may come days when things will get so jumbled up and tough in your life that you might decide upon leaving the task for that day and thus break your consistent journey. And it just happens to be a fact that once you break your tempo with anything it is not easy to get back on track.
Some of you might have worked with your camera just a few days ago whereas many of the people reading this might not be able to even recall the last time. So, this activity has a lot of benefits and not just one. It teaches you how to stay consistent in general, allows you to use your camera everyday and gives you a load of photos that document your improvement within them. By the end of the year when you will skim through these photos you will be able to see rather clearly how much you have improved.

2. 52 Weeks

You must have figured it out from the name that this one is not much different from project 365. In this project you are supposed to take a photo each week of the year instead of each day. Definitely simpler and easier than the above one.

To "reflect" on what you want in your photo - Photo by © Jill Wellington
To “reflect” on what you want in your photo – Photo by © Jill Wellington

If you opt for this, it would leave you with more time to deliberate on things you see around you, different subjects to inspire you and you can prepare to shoot them accordingly beforehand, plus managing time will be a lot easier as well. The choice varies from person to person, but knowing myself and my routine tasks, I would probably go with this one if I had to choose between 365 and this.

3. Project A-Z

Like I mentioned before, the project 365 and 52 weeks, alone does not have a restriction of subject. Your subject can be anything unless you combine that project with another project having a subject limitation. Such as this one.

The A-Z project mainly involves searching for alphabets. It is divided into three versions. One of them is to look out for real letters you may find around you and photograph them in a creative way.

Second asks you to search for any object / scene that looks like it’s making an alphabet and you shoot it.

Third one is the most interesting, I believe. It requires for you to keep your eyes open to capture an action taking place which starts with any letter from the alphabets, and the rule is: NOT to repeat a letter. If you have already taken a photo of an action starting with A, say for example: argument, now you cannot take any more photos with A and must search for other letters and their action.

P for Prayer!
P for Prayer!

Sounds fun yet it will not be that easy. But if you combine it with the 52 week project, and only take these photos every other week, you might just get an idea of where you will find what, if you remember to observe everything closely along the week.

4. Numbers

We all are surrounded by numbers in one way or the other, whether it be a bill, credit cards, elevators, shoes, house numbers, etc, this is something everyone can locate quite easily. So, all you do here, is find a number / numbers and click on them! You might think right now that it seems rather dull but it is in fact the opposite of that.

Numbers are everywhere
Numbers are everywhere

There are no boundaries to capture these numbers you find, creatively, and once you begin this project you will know how many interesting photographs can actually come out of it.

5. Environmental Portraits

Have you ever explored your hometown? The whole of it? Do you really know everybody who lives there and the people who visit? Well, your local area itself can turn out to be a great access for you to work on your photographic skills and portfolio. You wanted to know what is the best way to keep practicing photography with your packed schedule, here is your kind of thing.

Another story left untold - Photo by © Jörg Peter
Another story left untold – Photo by © Jörg Peter

Be it your own work place, people in your hometown, folks you meet at the gymnasium, club etc, you can capture them and their stories in your photographs. Much like what people at Humans of New York do.

6. Doors and Windows

This is something you see every other day and not just once but countless times. So, as you can imagine this project is quite vast in terms of variations. There are so many types of doors and windows, some varying in color, some in style, others might have different shapes and sizes and so on. Possibilities are endless.

Doors and windows can be a beautiful subject to photograph - Photo by © Jörg Peter
Doors and windows can be beautiful subjects to photograph – Photo by © Jörg Peter

The surrounding walls and areas will be different as well. Peeling paint, pots and plants, rugged mats, a tidy entrance… and you can’t even guess how excited I am getting with each word I write. I think, I might just choose this as my next photography project!

7. Ongoing Documentary

Photographing events will polish your skills in documentary photography - Photo by © Heike Georg
Photographing events will polish your skills in documentary photography – Photo by © Heike Georg

An ongoing documentary means photographing any event taking place in your area or wherever you think you can take some time out to go. This will usually be for a short term, which might interest you, and it will only require for you to commit yourself to visit that place for as long as the event goes on for.

8. From The Hip

It is a great technique to try and practice, for it gives you some remarkable photos from an unusual perspective. You hold your camera at waist length and then tilt it slightly upward to shoot. You will not be looking through the view finder of course, and if you find it difficult then you can flip your camera’s LCD display towards you (if it allows. This feature comes in most of the newer Digital SLRs).

This is a very useful trick for those who walk to / from work and those who go for a walk everyday in the morning or evening for fitness or any other purpose. You can bring your camera along and shoot away on the streets daily without having to take out any extra time. Also, this way, people will not be staring at you like the way they do when you look at them through the viewfinder with your camera pointed at them. This will enable more natural, candid photos for you.

Considering all the benefits of this project, I have passed this one as one of the projects I will opt for in the future. You should too. Think of all the new compositions you might discover through it!

9. Through the Season

In the busy lives we are leading, we get so wrapped up in our worldly matters that we often forget to appreciate nature. How everything in the environment changes as time goes by. Sure, we may notice the change when it is already there, but, what about when it is underway? You see nature adopting different faces on National Geographic, why not save it in your own photographs!

Witness the change in me
Witness the change in me

Find a place that you think is nearest to you and has plenty of nature to showcase. Shoot it at different times of the day, trying various angles and keep doing it for each day, all through the year. You will be amazed to find how that one thing can change so dramatically with all the different seasons.

10. Project Night Life

We went through some tips on how to capture the night life in interesting ways in the previous post. How about taking this up as a project? This project will not only help you practice the techniques you learnt, but you are bound to get some really beautiful photographs through it.

At some places, night life means a quiet alley
At some places, night life means a quiet alley

Night offers a ton of options for you to shoot from and if you love photography, it will prove to be very relaxing and satisfying after a hectic day.

11. Project 50 – 50

Project description: Taking a photo for 50 days with your 50mm lens only, leaving you with 50 wonderful photographs at the end.

Being Photogenic - Photo by © Jill Wellington
Being Photogenic – Photo by © Jill Wellington

You will figure out all that a zoom lens allows you to do, when you are restricted to only use the 50mm. This helps you become better at wide angle shots, and discover all the ways you can make a composition look interesting without zooming in on it. And if going closer is much needed, you will have to do the extra exercise and “walk” up close.

12. Self-Portraiture

I have seen many people carrying this out and that too rather creatively. It is similar to the project 365 and 52 and is actually combined with any one of them to fully achieve the purpose. You will have to take a photo of yourself everyday or every week changing the angles, props, compositions and themes etc. You have full liberty to go wild with this one. There will be no one to object on the way you want things to look and everything else.

Self portraiture is much more than this, 365 days will make you discover it - Photo by © Jörg Peter
Self portraiture is much more than this, 365 days will make you discover it – Photo by © Jörg Peter

This is again a test of consistency and dedication plus a tougher test of creativity. Each of your photos must appear different than the other ones. It will most surely ascend your skills to the next level – that is something you can bet on!

13. Your Phone’s Camera

So admittedly, it is not easy for everybody to bring their expensive digital SLR with its expensive lenses and all the other additional expensive gear – Whoa, that is a lot of expensive stuff to roam about with, not all cities and streets allow this, if you know what I mean. So, with our phones having good quality cameras, and the quality improving with time, it is quite an opportunity for everyone to take advantage from.

As you know, our DSLRs have so many options in them to make a photographic scene that is in front of you even more attractive. Ever thought about what would happen if you did not have to worry about the correct exposure and all that for a while? You will begin to focus on your compositional skills more. A good composition is like a back bone to a photograph. If your photo is not composed the right way, even if you have gotten the exposure on point, it would not be categorized as a beauty. Because it would not look stunning.

Hence, shooting with your phone’s camera will direct your entire concentration on getting the look of your image right. Keep this practice up for a while and soon you will learn what your phone and you are truly capable of.

14. Black and White

Black and white has always held a special place in most photographers’ hearts. The quality of it is that it makes you more attentive toward shapes and textures when you are composing a photograph. It teaches you how to create balance with the available tones and contrast.

Making the lines, tones and textures prominent
Making the lines, tones and textures prominent

Colors play a huge role in making an image appear beautiful, but, going black and white allows you to put the colors on the back burner for some time and produce striking photos with the two extremes only, that is black and white.

15. A Day In The Life Of

If you feel like taking a break from the usual, you might want to consider this one. This project only takes a single day and is a good source of entertainment as well. You decide upon a subject – it can be you, any other person or thing – and then you document that subject’s entire day in the form of photographs.

A chance to know your subject closely
A chance to know your subject closely

You can take it upon yourself to accomplish this task once every week. The best part, if you document a day in your own life, will be: no putting in extra time. But, if you want to carry this out on someone / something else, you can still do it on weekends.

16. Your Family

Be it immediate or extended, families have such diversity in them that photographers can truly benefit from. You are with them most days of your life. How about documenting your family? You can try it with someone else’s family too, like a friend’s, maybe. There are laughs, various ages and generations, arguments, interactions, food, gossip sessions, a whole variety of expressions, bonds and what not! You can do the same with taking your friends as your subject.

Spending time together
Spending time together

This really is an extremely fascinating idea to follow upon. Another one added to my bucket of projects!

17. Architecture

Photographing the beauty of architecture is another great way to improve your compositional skills. Architectural designs have a great variety, with designs differing in size, shape, colors and style etc, therefore it offers a diverse collection of options.

Beautiful Architecture, beautiful Light
Beautiful Architecture, beautiful Light

You may also find textures, windows and doors, reflective glass and lines accompanying your building. It mostly relies on your imagination to set everything in the frame in such a way so as to highlight any unique features.

18. One Color at a Time

You can pick any color you want / like, and then set a goal for yourself to shoot 30 images in 30 days for instance. Your main subject for each photo will have to be of the chosen color or from its family. For example, if you choose Purple, all of the 30 photos will have their main subject in purple color. Simple as that.

Discover a range of a single color - Photo by © Jill Wellington
Discover a range of a single color – Photo by © Jill Wellington

Personal photography projects are to keep you motivated and enthusiastic, because photography is something that calls for constant practice to be able to produce pro level photos. You often find me writing about “practicing”, now here was a list of ways you can start practicing no matter how busy you are.

Hope you found a project that suits your liking and interest, good luck with pulling it off. Remember, do not hesitate to start a project because it stretches for as long as a year. Just give it a go, once you begin, motivation will itself find its way to you. Good luck.

Cheers!

Tips to Tackle Night Photography

A Quick Guide to Master Night Photography

As much as I love the natural golden light, I cannot get over the beauty that night photography possesses in itself. The extravagant dazzle of flamboyant lights from the buildings, sign boards, car light trails or the splendor of a starry sky, all have such a soul to them which attracts and makes you want to visit that place or at least gets you out those doors to experience the thrill and mystery, “night” has to offer. In the case of zealous photographers, this fact is especially true, and If you are looking to learn some handy tips and techniques on night photography, then you must be one of them too!

Well, then let’s quickly go over the core things that not only get you on track with a super finish in your photographs from the beginning but will also help you improve further in this genre.

1. Importance of a tripod

When you plan to shoot at night, bringing a tripod along is a must. Capturing images at night requires for you to shoot on slow shutter speeds – how slow, will depend on how low the light is – to make up for the lack of light or the darkness spread over the canvas you want to reflect through your camera. This is why you might often get to hear night photography being termed as low-light photography as well.

Slow and steady
Slow and steady

 

Shooting on a slow shutter speed results in blurry, soft images if you do not support your camera with something as sturdy as a tripod. But sometimes even with a tripod you can end up with an unwanted blur in your photos, the reason can be one of these:

You did not take your hands off of the camera. When you have mounted the camera on tripod, be sure not to touch it, because a movement as slight as a mere touch can also ruin your shot that might have come out perfect otherwise. So it is best to release the shutter with the help of your camera’s self timer and in case you have a scene that cannot wait for a self timer to go off, you may use a remote.

Secondly, your tripod itself might not have held a strong balanced position. Do remember to check twice if your camera and tripod, paired up, are accurately balanced wherever you have placed them, to minimize the chances of it becoming wobbly in the middle of your shot.

If you do not own a tripod as of yet, you can still shoot at night with only a few limitations though. You can find anything around the space that is sturdy and firm in its place and put your camera over it, e.g. a bench, rock or a low brick wall. The limitation will be that you may not find such a thing every time for the best possible angles. But then again, that is where a photographer ‘s skills are best revealed – by producing something spectacular out of only the things that were naturally available.

2. Forecast and preparation

Want to enhance your skills? It will do you great if you begin to plan ahead. This means going out to the streets and places you feel like photographing, to closely observe every single thing that a good photograph involves, before you get there loaded with all your equipment.

A walk down the street to uncover the secrets of night
A walk down the street to uncover the secrets of night

It also works well when you take random strolls around your town to see if anything catches your eye. Look for interesting lights, buildings, crowds, roads where you may get a good angle of car light trails, some lonely roads have a serenity of their own and so on. There are many things to be found out there in the night. Whatever catches your attention and you get a feeling like there is something about this place, this is where you stop and scrutinize the elements that ask to be photographed.

It basically saves you a lot of time and helps you with staying safe, for you will already know till where you can go, what are your limitations, what time will be best to shoot your particular choice of scene and the best angle options.

3. Tackling the composition

Once you have decided what you want to photograph now you work on composing a stunning frame out of what you see. There are so many rules of composition that you can follow but something you must always remember is that people who are going to see your photo will always know what anything looks like, from eye level. So, in order to make your image more appealing, you might want to give people something new, something from another perspective, from a position nobody usually opts for while looking at things. For instance, shooting from a much lower angle, like it was an insect looking through the eyepiece.

Creating balance
Creating balance

Then be sure to obtain a balance in the photo. Also, if you photograph a crowded place, look out for weirdly cut people. You either bring them in the frame or you let them out completely, rather than having them on the edge of your image in awkward positions with one arm cut off for example – out of the frame to be exact, but that is how it actually feels like when you look at photos composed with such errors.

4. The amazing blue hour

Just writing about it, is making me excited! What is night photography without the blue hour? I agree that you can still take beautiful photos against a completely dark sky, but blue hours allow you to take extra stunning photos actually. To make you aware of what blue hour really is: it is the time before sunrise and after sunset, when the Sun is really close and below the horizon, and it colors the sky a really deep blue. Usually it is preferred to take night photographs – other than the stars – during the blue hour because of the contrast it creates with the rest of the elements included in the image.

Utilize the options Nature provides - Photo by © Brigitte Werner
Utilize the options Nature provides – Photo by © Brigitte Werner

Once, when I showed up with my night photography assignment to class, my teacher said, “You are late.” I got confused and asked, “How so?” He replied, “You missed the Blue hour.” and that is when I realized the importance of the blue hour, if it is not the stars you want to photograph – which has a whole new world of possibilities we will discuss in another post – you must remember to always try to shoot within the blue hour whatever night photograph you want to capture.

5. Let’s get technical

So you have composed your frame and focused on to your main subject, now comes the more technical part. Just as I mentioned above, for night photography you need to keep your shutter speed slow. This is necessary to get high quality results, for this way you wouldn’t have to increase the ISO, which when increased, gives you a grainy photo with lots of noise. So first of all, switch to manual mode to be able to adjust everything exactly the way you want to. Set the ISO as low as your camera allows you to go, in order to avoid noise in your photograph. Memorize it: Lesser the ISO, lesser the noise.

Some things just effortlessly attract the focus
Some things just effortlessly attract the focus

Now comes the aperture. Set it to a higher f number, like f/11 or f/16, and in other words, you keep your aperture window small in most cases during night photography. Small/narrow aperture brings both the foreground as well as the background into sharp focus which is usually what you want when photographing landscapes, cityscapes etc at night.

At this point, with the ISO set this low and aperture only slightly open, you need to do something to have more light reach the sensor. Time to fix the shutter speed!

When you have both the ISO and the aperture set in the way mentioned above, your shutter speed will have to be made slow, if you are to get the correct exposure. Take some photos with the shutter speed your camera suggests and see if it really does work in the best way. If you feel that your camera has got it slightly wrong maybe, and the image still needs to be a tad darker or brighter, then feel free to change the shutter speed by one or two stops, click away and check again.

There is no fixed shutter speed that works in all sorts of conditions, it may vary depending on different things, but you can try another trick to set the perfect shutter speed for your particular situation by taking a shot at 10 seconds, then one at 20 seconds and then another at 30 seconds. Now review these images, to judge which one of them is closest to what you would like, this will make it easier for you to determine the best shutter speed.

6. Go for best quality

Always shoot in RAW. The difference you get from shooting in RAW from that of the Normal or even High Quality JPEG is remarkable. RAW enables you to edit and enhance the beauty of your photograph to a much greater extent than what Photoshop generally allows you to do with a JPEG image.

Build a strong friendship with camera RAW
Build a strong friendship with camera RAW

So whether you capture the night or photograph anything else, RAW will turn into your best friend once you become familiar with it. You will see what it can do to even the images you otherwise would have transferred into the “waste” folder

7. Practice makes perfect?

Lastly, a tip for bringing consistency in your growth – keep studying other people’s photographs. Sure it is said that practice makes you perfect, which is indeed true, but do you not think something is missing here? How about “perfect” practice makes you “perfect“? For, if one keeps practicing the wrong thing, it will only make them perfect in their flaws.

So, It truly helps looking at what other great photographers have done in the same category you want to excel in, and try to find out what was it that made it so special? Why the photograph you have in front of you, works? In order to become perfect in the right direction, one should be aware of what exactly the right thing looks like.

I have told you the things that will set you on the right track, now it is upon you that how you practice and how much you practice to reach your target. I wish all my readers the best of luck, I sincerely hope my posts help you. Cheers!

P.S, a bonus!

Sparkling stars
Sparkling stars

A small aperture will also make the street lights in your photo glimmer like a star!

Maternity Photography ideas - Photo by © Margus Kulden

18 Adorable Maternity Picture Ideas

Just like any other field of photography that involves family and couples, maternity photography also enables for the sweet folks to cherish those unforgettable moments of their life, have them embedded in their memories for the rest of their lives with the help of a bunch – or more – of vivid photos, as a reminder of a beautiful time. So, we have gathered a few maternity picture ideas for you get inspiration if you’re planning on shooting some pregnancy photos.

According to my research, unlike some of the other genres, maternity pictures have no specific bounds and limitations, actually. You can pretty much do anything with it, you can go for something  totally serene, or opt for a session full of fun and goofiness – depends on what your client feels best about. It is more of a mutual coordination between the client and the photographer.

So, today we will take a look over a few maternity picture ideas and see what they have going for them and what we can learn and pick out. Brace yourself people, some heavily loaded inspiration is coming your way!

1. Baby on the way!

An extremely cute way to announce the new arrival. Getting down low, as you can see in the above photo, adds more depth to the photograph. While the idea below, is a really good one to follow with a family having siblings, shooting the same thing from a much lower angle – like in the image above – would give you an even better outcome.

Maternity picture ideas don't have to include faces.
New arrival – Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan

2. You don’t mess with a mom-to-be

Maternity pictures can be different.
All moms are warriors – Photo by © Matthias Weinberger

One must agree that this is some real creative thinking on their part. It is a universal fact that all women turn into warriors when they become a mom and that is what they portrayed here – literally. If your client is up for it, you should definitely try a similar trick at least once! And shooting this inside an elevator just added to the you-come-near-me-and-I’ll-kill-you feel! Brilliant idea to take note of people. There are some issues with how the photos are framed though, the alignment issue to be specific, and it would have been awesome if the floor and ceiling of the elevator were sparkling as well, but you must make sure to keep these things in mind when you try something inspired out of this.

3. Fashion made easy

Some maternity picture ideas take you out of your comfort zone.
Let’s play dress up – Photo by © Mighty June

Gone are the days when new mums would not want to wear anything other than a maxi dress and won’t want to come out of their draped gowns. “That was so last year” as a typical fashionista would say, or maybe last to last to last year, or at least ever since our designers and brands took it upon themselves to change the trend and help make the moms-to-be feel more vibrant and chic. All moms want to look put together and pretty, and that too at all times. Well, now It is much easier to look fashionable while expecting! So, this settles the issue of “what should I wear?” – a question you are bound to get by your client. There is a variety to choose from now, besides, the only thing that should matter the most is that the mom must feel comfortable. Whatever makes her feel beautiful and confident is the way to go, as you – the photographer – would only want to capture her good moods!

4. Incorporate fun ideas

Incorporating fun ideas in maternity photography
Hand in Hand – Photo by © Chris Richardson

One of the best things about outdoor shoots is the natural light! I absolutely adore natural light. The smooth golden tone it offers, looks wonderful with almost anything you photograph bathed in it. Whether you own an artificial lighting kit or not, using the Golden light and the backlighting technique is a reliable way to capture stunning photos.

If you do not know about the Golden Light, it is the natural light you get an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. And backlighting is basically having the light source behind your subject to create a soft golden halo around them, if you capture it the right way, you even get to see the raises from the Sun, literally bouncing on ground – adds an instant splendor to your shot. Whenever you consider shooting at an outdoor venue, do keep these in mind.

Secondly, what an adorable idea! Look at how cute they seem with holding the teddy bear that way. This photos tells you that maternity photography is not really all about capturing the bump and the couple’s relationship only, but there are also ways for you to portray their anticipation for the new member.

5. Zoom in on the parents

 - Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan (www.TheJordanCollective.com)
– Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan (www.TheJordanCollective.com)

Just as any other kind of photography, it is best to look for a variety of poses in maternity photography as well. No one would enjoy going through the same sort of photos while flipping through the album, except maybe the parents themselves, but even they would keep wishing that there were more from this time, varying in angles, spots, expressions, etc.

Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan (www.TheJordanCollective.com)
Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan (www.TheJordanCollective.com)

So, one variation that you should be sure to remember is to capture the couple’s face! Excluding the bump, and yes, you heard me right. You do not want to miss a close-up shot of the couple because that completes the whole album, really. It will be like a must have basic portrait together, for them to have from this part of their lives.

6. Some lone time

Some lone time with the mother.
Photo by © Anna Bricova

The view of a mum caught alone with her child who has not even officially entered the world yet, really teaches you what love earnestly means. You honestly get to know the profound meaning of the phrase “The love of a Mother”. Our job as a photographer is to capture these sentiments, this beautiful one-of-a-kind moment.

You are very likely to get such emotions and expressions out when you shoot at your client’s home, because this way she will be more comfortable and relaxed without any self consciousness to fight with.

Although, finding them sitting like this, deep in thought naturally would be best, but these can be achieved by having them pose as well. Get the daddy out of the scene and have her dwell on whatever comes to her mind. This will easily get you the thoughtful expression, while the rest of the photo depends on your composition.

Some lone time - maternity picture ideas
Photo by © AP Photographie

As you can see in the first image, the room is quite cluttered. The reason I have used this image here, is because the photographer has made use of the available light in a very smart manner, the lady looks beautiful, her posture is great and everything else about this photo is perfect, except the room is a bit untidy. So, when you go for indoor shoots, make sure you get the space cleaned up prior to it.

7. Get extra adorable

Incorporate baby accessories in maternity pictures
Incorporate baby accessories – Photo by © Anan Mohamad Amri Adanan

Isn’t this idea totally flattering? All you have to do here is to ask your clients to bring along some of the tiny clothes, shoes and some things from the cute accessories they have bought for the new member, then you can simply arrange them like so and you have an effortless, adorable shot ready!

8. Keep it natural

It is not always that your clients will want to jump up and down – not literally – and pose this way and that way for the shoot, or to put in simple words, they might not feel too ecstatic over the prospect of posing. Thus, you will have to be very patient with them and try your best to make them relax at first, and get them out of the uncomfortable zone, to at least be able to give you some good expressions.

This is one of the reasons why it is necessary to meet up and keep in contact with the client from the initial months, to know when the mum is feeling her best, and up for some cheery stuff. Scheduling the shoot for any other day without considering the health status, won’t do you any good. And will not be one of the best times your clients have had. Which is going to be a total bummer. You don’t want that, so remember keep check on things!

Eliminating the phenomenon of posing in maternity photography
Photo by © Phalinn Ooi

Secondly, keeping things natural mean, having them do whatever and however they want, eliminating the phenomenon of posing for some time. Just like in children photography, where you pass most of the orders, but still give the kiddos a few clicks according to their choice, only to win their trust and hearts, similarly, you do the same with these mommies too. Let her sit or stand whichever way she says she feels comfortable and adjust yourself accordingly instead of pointing things out to her. Compose a flattering frame even without your choice of set up and show her how good of a photographer your are!

9. Introduce the Familia

If the arriving baby has siblings, have them appear in the shoot in your maternity picture ideas
Introducing the Familia – Photo by © Britni Grace

If the arriving baby has siblings, what is better than having them appear in the shoot. Photographing with kids involved in a maternity photo shoot is a field within itself, so to say. Now your responsibilities increase a notch, as it will not be the mommy to holler after the kids and have them behave the way you want them to, it will all be up on your shoulders, although their dad will also be there to help, but you get the point, I am sure. It is going to be something like children photography and maternity photography both combined to make one-of-a-kind photography, but without a doubt, absolutely worth it!

If the arriving baby has siblings, have them appear in the shoot in maternity photography
Introducing the Familia – Photo by © MFer Photography
If the arriving baby has siblings, have them appear in the shoot in maternity photography
Introducing the Familia – Photo by © MFer Photography

You will see for yourself that there are so many things you can do with having these kids around. They enhance the love, care and everything nice in the photograph. And it is not even necessary to have the mommy in the picture altogether! She has had enough of clicks, now you should let her rest for a while before you resume with the activity if it is somewhat left, and bring in the kid party! The above image surely is enough of an example on what you can do with the kids without mommy being around, while still adhering to maternity photography. Adorable! – I know I say that a lot, but it is just too adorable!

10. Get creative

Photo by © Antony Pratap
Photo by © Antony Pratap

Props can be a lot of fun! And I mean A LOT of fun. You should really try incorporating them into the shoots, they can come in handy in such weird ways, giving the whole shoot an entirely different mood. Imagine yourself skimming through a photo album full of maternity clicks and everything is going although pretty, but monotonous, then you suddenly come across a few photographs that are the likes of the above images and you go, “Awwww”. Yes, please! That is what we want.

Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan (www.TheJordanCollective.com)
Photo by © Cary and Kacey Jordan (www.TheJordanCollective.com)

Including props does not in any way has to be the same old shoe or a bib close-up, there is a whole world you can explore! You only need to send your mind on a thinking mission with a wide range of props in mind. See for example these photos here, are they not something that can bring the “Aww” out of most people? They definitely can – at least in the case of women, and this whole maternity photography circles around a woman, so we have our target, targeted! – And it is a bull’s eye, let me tell you. So, what we learnt from these photos is that props are Good and you should not be afraid to let your mind dwell on it!

Photo by © Amie Fedora
Photo by © Amie Fedora

11. How about a ride?

We just talked about including props and unleashing your mind to wander in the valleys of creativity and imagination. But what about the ordinary stuff that we tend to over look? Things that do not even require for any of us to roam in foreign valleys or whatever creative people chant about. Things that are sitting or laying idle in yours as well as your client’s garage, probably weeping silently for you to bring them in use again. These will also fall under the category of props, but these are things more on the basic side, needing no extra thinking, almost an effortless way to attain ultra cute shots, just like that!

Have some fun with your maternity picture ideas
Photo by © Britni Grace

So, see whether your client is up for a fun-tastic shoot, and then go have a look into your own garage or have the clients look into theirs, to haul some inspiring props out of there! And on this note, It just occurred to me that even a flat old tire can be of a good use, somewhere in the shoot. Hmmm…..

12. Play with the shadows

Break the monotony by including shadows in maternity picture ideas
Photo by © Krista Guenin

I cannot even express in words the kind of love I have for shadows. They just have an amazing ability to add profundity to the photo. They are an amazing tool to bring excitement to your photos and break that monotony we discussed about. These are only two examples, but you can do so much with them, really. Again, this will require for your mind to go strolling in those valleys, but trust me, if you do reach a good idea or two, while you are it, more and more ideas will follow on their own!

Photo by © Krista Guenin
Photo by © Krista Guenin

You can even have only your clients’ shadows in the frame, excluding their real selves entirely and have them pose a certain way, to capture the shadows doing whatever the real figures do – on a more clean and shiny surface would be great. You have to try shadows, you will fall in love with them.

13. Confidence comes with style

Photo by © Kelly D Photography
Photo by © Kelly D Photography

If your client is feeling a bit low, or anything like that, here is a quick tip: Styling gives a person an instant dose of new confidence. Ask her to bring along some extra accessories if you are shooting outdoors, and have her change her style every time you feel she is getting tired or bored. It will give you another 30 minutes (approx) to photograph a confident mama. But remember to have her stay consistent with the color scheme and over all apparel, though. You only want a new style and not a totally new look. For instance, from a pony tail to letting her hair down, with glasses – without glasses, front hair parting – side hair parting, with ear rings – without ear rings, a hat – a jacket, etc.

14. Mother nature at its best

Photo by © Krista Guenin
Photo by © Krista Guenin

When nature meets with nature, it is a breathtaking moment to realize the beauty and tranquility that nature has bestowed on us. It is a time to thank the creator, the lord, for everything that he has blessed us with.

Show the beautiful environment in your maternity picture ideas
Mother Nature at its Best

Getting your client outdoors, to a private peaceful area having plenty of greenery preferably and then allowing for some of the beautiful environment to show in your frame along with her, both relishing in each other’s glory, is a sure fire way to get great shots.

15. Inside a dream

Photo by © XYZ Photography
Photo by © XYZ Photography

While an all natural atmosphere has its own beauty, this photo shoot tells you that merging nature with a bit of artificial lighting can get you a really cool surreal effect!

16. Try abstract

Photo by © Rockin Shutters
Photo by © Rockin Shutters

Trying abstract means trying out experimental angles. Like I said in the very beginning of the post that maternity photography has no specific boundaries. You have a whole lot of options to try from. Even experimental shots are allowed here, that may even break the rules sometimes. But if something works, it is a keeper! Textured, patterned backgrounds, geometrical compositions, peeking across a trunk or through greenery, etc can be incorporated here as well.

17. Having fun with dad

Bringing daddy in the photo
Bringing daddy in the photo

Portraying the relationship of the couple is an essential here. It is a great time to capture the emotions and excitement of the daddy-to-be! All through the maternity shoot, the focus mainly remains towards mommy, but daddy deserves some spot light too. As for the posing it is almost like any other couple photography, same rules apply, same techniques work.

Photo by © Amie Fedora
Photo by © Amie Fedora

18. In focus

And finally the most basic, the most essential photograph every maternity photo album would like to possess. A focused image of the bump. You can apply great variations to just this one shot, whether it be with lighting, colors, atmosphere or any other element that goes best with your overall theme. Here are two examples, differing in lighting and background, to give you an idea of how you can bring those variations.

Photo by © Volker Pietzonka
Photo by © Volker Pietzonka

Finally before ending the post, I would like you to know that you can pretty much use any lens for maternity photography. There is no restriction to it, it mostly involves some basic photography skills and a creative mind. The better your skills, the better the outcomes.

Have fun photographing a new life! Good luck and cheers!

 

Action Photography

11 Tips to Make Action Photography Easy!

Shooting motion is admittedly not a piece of cake, it requires some great deal of practice, knowledge, techniques and more practice, some essential gear, and again, mostly practice! As far as my observation goes, even a limited choice of gear cannot restrict you from taking awe-inspiring photos, if you have got the expertise!

In this article, you will find all that is a must to know before you step into the field of action photography, so that unlike me and many others, you go fully prepared.

1. Know your Gear

I still remember, my first ever assignment as a photography student was to freeze action. I was fairly new to all of it and I could barely handle my camera as I stepped into the field without properly becoming familiar with all the settings my camera had to offer. My lack of knowledge with regard to my camera proved to be a huge hindrance in shooting good quality photos. Every now and then, I would stop to look for some switch, flip through my manual to see from where such and such settings were possible, while the action in front of me kept changing course or ended altogether – cutting the long, sad story short, both I and the shoot were a mess.

Spinning lit steel wool sparks on the beach at high speed - Photo by © Evan
Spinning lit steel wool sparks on the beach at high speed – Photo by © Evan

Therefore, I would strongly advise anyone who is up for some action photography, that you should first become friends with your camera. This is a prerequisite to be able to photograph action, with the kind of concentration and speed that it calls for.

2. Understand your Subject

The second important thing is to have good knowledge about your subject matter. You need to be able to understand it at least so much that you would know what to expect in the next minute. This will make it easier for you  to prepare yourself and the camera to anticipate the move you desire to capture.

Observe your subject to anticipate the moves - Photo by © Brigitte Werner
Observe your subject to anticipate the moves – Photo by © Brigitte Werner

If you were planning to photograph a subject on which you have no prior information, you should consider observing it closely first, whether it be live, on TV or on the internet, keeping your camera and the subsequent points in mind.

3. Work on your Composition

Now, you need to find yourself a good location to shoot from. Look for a position from where you can get good access of the area, where the major action is likely to take place. Plan in advance a little with regard to selecting your vantage point, in order to stay ahead of things, for, with shooting actions, if you did your research properly beforehand, it is very probable that you would know where to expect what.

Let your subject move in the photo - Photo by © Skeeze
Let your subject move in the photo – Photo by © Skeeze

Secondly, leave some space for your subject to move in the frame, if you are shooting from a side. For example, if your subject is moving from left to right, then you should consider leaving more space at the right side of the frame, while composing. This looks more pleasing to the eye and enables for the viewers to know where the subject was headed. Unless, you shoot the subject from straight on, facing you – which is also a wonderful way to capture action!

Capture the expression and add some drama! - Photo by © Skeeze
Capture the expression and add some drama! – Photo by © Skeeze

Shooting from where you can capture the expression on your subject’s face, is very likely to get you some brilliant images. People love looking at other people’s expressions, features and all that, so having this will increase the amount of extravaganza in your photos.

Shoot from below - Photo by © Skeeze
Shoot from below – Photo by © Skeeze

Try taking photos from a lower angle, this makes your subject look more potent. However, avoid getting in anybody’s way and make sure to keep yourself and the folks around you safe.

4. About the Shutter

When shooting action, you have two options, whether to freeze the subject matter with the help of a very fast shutter speed, or to show the action as a haze using a slower shutter speed. The later one is usually used in waterfalls and car light trails, but with most things, you want to freeze the action in time. There is also a case of freezing a subject while letting its edges to blur slightly at the same time, using a shutter speed somewhere in the middle of too fast and too slow.

Shutter speed varies with respect to the subject - Photo by © Skeeze
Shutter speed varies with respect to the subject – Photo by © Skeeze

In order to freeze the motion as it is, a general rule of thumb is to keep the shutter speed as fast as you can. The higher the number, the faster the shutter speed. Knowing exactly how fast you should go with each different subject, comes with practice, as there are a number of things your shutter speed will depend on, for instance, the source of light and it’s direction, the amount of light, how fast your subject is moving, distance between the subject and your lens, the position and angle you went for, etc.

So, there is not any particular constant number that you should always set, for all sorts of actions. For, 1/4000 may be well suited for a racing car, where as you may need only  1/500 to capture a mere walk. Just try and avoid going below 1/500 though.

If you find that you are not getting enough light in the photo, then increase the ISO and go as wide with the aperture as you possibly can, but let your shutter speed stay where you are getting good “frozen” action.

5. Which Lens is a Good Lens?

Generally, it depends on the focal length required by the view you want to capture, for example, if it is sports that is in question, you may require at least a 200 mm lens to bring the far-away action closer to you.

Bringing the distant action closer - Photo by © David Mark
Bringing the distant action closer – Photo by © David Mark

Faster shutter speed means lesser light, for which you need to open the aperture as wide as you can, to allow more light to reach the sensor. Hence, a good lens for this type of photography can be a fast lens that has aperture level from f/1.8 to f/2.8.

Typically, super fast telephoto lenses such as the 300mm with f/2.8, 400mm with f/2.8 and 600mm with f/4 are among the lenses many of the pro action photographers opt for. But alas, the problem with these is that they are rather expensive for everyone to own. So, for people who are not able to meet the expense of such a lens, there is still a variety of good lenses to choose from. You may go for a 300mm f/4 or 400mm f/5.6 in super telephoto lenses, and 75-300mm, 100-400mm or 200-400mm in the range of zoom lenses.

If you already own a lens having a shorter focal length, then worry not, your photos can still turn out great, as shorter focal lengths have their own benefits. While they require for you to get physically closer to the subject,  a wide angle lens, upon moving closer, allows you to bring more of the environment into the frame and expands the spectrum of view for the audience to take pleasure from. Makes them feel like a part of the action going on, in the photo.

Bring in the surrounding
Bring in the surrounding

All in all, always remember that it is your talent that matters at the end of the day. It is not necessary that someone with a longer lens will produce better photos than you, if you have the skills, you will definitely figure out ways to capture extra stunning shots with whatever gear you already possess.

6. The Pre-focus Phenomenon

Anticipate the next move - Photo by © skeeze
Anticipate the next move – Photo by © skeeze

With a certain type of action activities, you already know where the next move will take place, like, in a cricket match, you know where the batsman will run to or where the bowler will stop to throw the ball – that is the crease, in such cases, you can take a bit of advantage and pre-focus on that area where you know the subject will approach in a few seconds, and as soon as it enters your frame, you click away!

7. Shift to Continuous Focus

With subjects that are moving rapidly or unpredictably, you need to shoot very fast, click after click. But how to get your camera to focus again and again after each click without wasting even a second? For that, you use the “continuous focus” mode in your camera. For people having Canon this mode is known as AI-SERVO and for the ones with Nikon, it is known as AF-C. It enables your camera to re-focus swiftly back onto the subject after each click, as your subject moves.

Shoot the unpredictable subjects quikcly to capture the right moment - Photo by © Skeeze
Shoot the unpredictable subjects quickly to capture the right moment – Photo by © Skeeze

This mode has an ability to calculate the direction of the subject and the speed that its moving in. Hence,  press the shutter release halfway down as you follow your subject’s movement, then when you have your subject in focus, press the button all the way down. It helps you a lot in capturing the action with a sharp crisp focus.

8. Understanding Continuous Shooting Mode

In continuous shooting mode you press and hold the shutter release down while the camera takes a number of images per second, until you lift your finger. This technique works really well with repetitive actions and with rapidly moving subjects.

Photo by © Robert Balog
Photo by © Robert Balog

It is not always a good choice though. With the sort of actions where the time frame in which your action takes place, becomes shorter – such as a tennis ball hitting the racket – you may end up losing the “one” perfect moment, as it could have come somewhere between the continuous shots from being in this mode.

So, select this mode, depending on the nature of action as explained above.

Also, if you plan to shoot in this mode, make sure to have extra memory cards handy. As, it will fill up the space in your cards as rapidly as it allows to take photos!

9. No Chimping Allowed!

Keep your eyes on the action
Keep your eyes on the action

Chimping is a term used in the photography language for when someone keeps looking back into the LCD screen after every few photos. Please, do not do that! You can take plenty of time to go through each photo when you get home, but it will only distract you and cost you the perfect moments if you do this when the action is taking place right in front of you and you let it pass by just like that. Therefore, keep away from chimping!

10. Panning

Frozen in time - Photo by © Moyan Brenn
Frozen in time – Photo by © Moyan Brenn

Panning is a beautiful trick to achieve a strong sense of motion while still having your subject frozen in time. To pan, you balance your camera, held in your hands, by sticking your elbows and arms close to your sides and chest, then moving your waist along with the camera, in the direction of the action, all the while letting your feet stay stationary. It is not an easy trick, I admit, but only needs lots of practice to master it.

11. Inspire and Motivate Yourself

I cannot emphasize enough on the need to keep practicing with this, but another thing you must do to make yourself an expert in this field is to keep looking, observing and scrutinizing over the photographs taken by some of the renowned action photographers of all times.

This will help you determine what they did to stand out, what was unique about their style that made them so famous and eventually you will see how much information you will be able to extract out of it and the motivation it bequeaths to keep striving and practicing more and more until you finally reach a point close to them.

Like always, I hope this post was helpful! Until next time, cheers and good luck!

Jewelry Photography - Photo by © TVZ Design

Jewelry Photography – 9 Amazing Tips for Best Results

As simple as it may sound – “Jewelry Photography? Oh, how hard can it be?”  – it can be very intimidating when an “Okay” shot is not an option, and getting every single thing perfect in this particular field of photography requires some real deal of concentration, an eye for delicacy and some spot on techniques – not to forget, a good set of gear too.

With the evolution of online buying and selling, there is no denying the fact that it all comes down to the photo of the product at the end of the day. The better a photo looks, superior the chances of attracting customers. This led to an evolution in the jewelry photography world as well. It is not a matter of  the photographer or the designer’s own preference and choice anymore, you need to show what and how the customers like it to be.

As the prospect customers can not actually touch and feel the product with their hands, their decision of buying completely depends on your photo. So technically, all those sales rely on you and so does your future in this field.

In this post, I have compiled some vital stuff that you should know and look out for, if you want to improve your skills at it and capture pro-level photographs of Jewelry.

Let’s get started!

1. CLEAN UP IMPERFECTIONS

It's like getting ready before your shoot
It’s like getting ready before your shoot

Trust me when I say it will be a gigantic bummer if you catch a speck of dust, staring back at you, once you open the image on Photoshop for post processing and there it is… sigh.

Nicely buffed up jewelry very easily attracts fingerprints and dust particles and our digital cameras nowadays capture even the tiniest of dust particles without you even wanting them to!

While retouching your Jewelry Photography, you must avoid using the clone tool and all such tools as far as you can, as, for one: It will take up more time of yours – you could be doing any other productive work at this time, two: Would you not want for your photos, right from the camera, to have an absolute polished look? We are after all talking about pro-level photography. Plus, cloning in super finished quality asks for super skills too.

Hence, it is for your own benefit if you deal with the piece of jewelry with added care and tidy it up inside out, prior to the shoot, so that you save yourself from any extra effort later.

Also, inspect it thoroughly for any other imperfections or if any part requires repair, for often, jewelry pieces with tiny stones embellished onto them loose one or two without the defect being too noticeable, until looked upon closely.

Things To Use:

Gloves: You should consider wearing gloves to steer clear of fingerprints for every time you need to touch the jewelry.

Gem Brush: You may want to get yourself a pair of these, quite a practical thing to own by jewelry photographers.

Jewelry cleaning liquid: There are specialized jewelry cleaning products available that can make this process a lot quicker and easier. Go ahead and try them.

 

2. ILLUMINATE

Enclosed Lighting System:

In simple words, a light box. It can be termed as the best thing you can own if you love to photograph jewelry, because there are a number of definitive perks you get with it. It evenly distributes light and gently wraps it around your product in a balanced manner – so that you do not end up with too little illumination at one point nor too much at another, as usually happens with a “contrasty” lighting that gives you harsh shadows and under-illuminated spots, or as the flash does with leaving your product washed out.

A lightbox keeps the reflections away.
If you want to keep the reflections away, use a lightbox.

The other thing that it does is to make your product stay clear of any reflection of your equipment or camera. Since you’re photographing shiny metallic jewelry, there’s a high chance that the might end up reflecting your light stands and your camera tripod back in them. So, a light box ensures that no such thing is reflected back in the piece of jewelry.

It helps to diffuse the glare coming from the lights and gives you smooth soft shadows.

Constant Fluorescent Daylight Lighting:

We have already discussed the need for a piece of jewelry to be extremely polished, but such polished jewelry tends to reflect a great part of the light that is thrown its way, so controlling the light can be quite tricky with this.

The most recommended light for jewelry photography by pros, is the daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs. They have a natural looking touch to them and do best to enhance the beauty of the small embellishments. An additional advantage is that they can be left turned on for hours without heating up too quickly.

It is best to use continuous light instead of flash for a number of benefits. It’ll allow you to go to shutter speeds higher than your sync speed, which will allow you to avoid camera shake, you can open up your aperture really wide and get really shallow depth of fields and they would be enhanced even further if you’re using a macro lens (highly recommended) and well, the major advantage is that, what you see is what you’ll get!

Diffused Light:

Diffused light is the soft light you get when you pass the light through any type of light diffuser, for instance, the light box. When you expose your jewelry to light, keep in mind that direct light reflects on the jewelry leaving you with hot spots and undesirable shadows – again, just as the on-camera flash does. That is why, direct light should be avoided and instead, you use diffused light. It spreads the light evenly and eradicates the problem spots.

Soft light gives you soft shadows
Soft light gives you soft shadows

Another way to attain soft light is to position the light very close to the subject. When light source is brought closer, it expands in size with regard to the subject and becomes soft, but if you’re doing that, you’ll have to steer clear of any reflections in the jewelry, particularly, if you’re not using a lightbox.

Aperture & Focus:

By choosing the manual mode, take benefit of the maximum F number your camera allows you to set – that is going for the smallest aperture – to achieve crisp and clear results.

By doing this you can bring the entire piece of jewelry into focus and not just a part of it. Usually, F8.0 to F16.0 has been observed to work well, but for those close up shots where you want only a small gemstone or any other detail to stand out, you can open up your aperture wider and keep everything out of focus except the thing you want emphasized.

To have full command over the focus, select spot focus mode in your camera. The normal focus mode of most digital cameras take in a broader spectrum and focus according to that, but spot focus allows you to control exactly where the camera focuses at.

Auto focus is generally a good option, but sometimes, even while in spot focus mode, it is not able to confine small shiny embellishments like tiny gemstones into sharp focus, so it’s best that you get a hold of a camera that has a preferable ability to focus manually to capture high-quality close up shots of jewelry.

White Balance:

It is highly recommended that you leave your camera’s white balance settings to auto. It is a typical observation by photographers that, generally, the white balance set to auto works well enough with shots taken on white backgrounds. And when it is changed to some other settings, it results in a greenish tint appearing over the image.

Try this on your own and discover the difference.

Shutter Speed or Exposure Time:

Since it has been recommended above to use continuous light rather than flash, shutter speed would become vital. The thing to remember while setting shutter speed is to keep the light balanced, neither too dark nor too light, all the while ensuring that you are at a point where there is no camera shake. Keep in mind that for sharp images, stay at or above at least 1/focal length, which means that if you’re shooting with a 105mm camera, you would want your shutter speed to stay faster than 1/105  of a second, when your camera is hand-held, the lower the number gets from here, the more you’ll have to deal with blurry shots. And that is why you use a tripod!

Stable Camera:

This is very crucial! For photographing jewelry, you must use a tripod or find any other suitable resource to mount your camera, but avoid trusting your hands with the job, as no matter how hard you try, there always remains a chance that your hands might shake, and even the slightest of shakes can interfere with the sharpness of focus you are after. If you’re extra finicky about it, you may also use a cable release with your camera, in order to avoid touching the camera when pressing the button.

Brightness and Contrast:

Very often it happens that despite everything else being perfect, when shooting on seamless white, your background still appears a little gray rather than the stark white you tried to achieve. It would be ideal to have this fixed during the shoot, by lighting the background separately and the product separately. An alternate solution to this in the post-process phase, is to adjust the brightness and the contrast of your image later. Bringing the levels up a notch on each, will get you the desired white.

Macro Lenses and Macro Extension Tubes:

Enticing close-up shots of jewelry pieces are extremely vital. Unfortunately, many a times the normal camera lenses do not allow to get in as close as one would like to go, because almost all lenses are restricted to keep a certain amount of minimum distance between them and the subject before they start to lose the sharpness of focus. On such occasions, you may want to consider the following options:

  1. It is ideal to use a macro lens for this kind of shoots. It allows you to get extra-close-up shots of the object, without losing the sharpness. Which is something that normal lenses do not allow. True macro photography is at the scale of 1:1 or greater — this means that the object you’re photographing should be the same size or larger on the sensor. Most macro lenses have a focal length between 50mm and 200mm, and they usually have a large maximum aperture (low f-number) that gives them both the ability to be fast as well as totally isolate the subject, making them ideal for jewelry photography. But, a word of caution, the shallow depth-of-field is a very important aspect of working with macro lenses and can take quite a lot of time to master.
  2. If you can’t afford a macro lens as yet, get yourself a macro extension tube, it comes in quite handy. It enables you to go further close to the object physically by a great measure, while also maintaining a crisp focus. These extension tubes go between the camera body and the lens and are compatible with most lenses. In simple words, these extension tubes end up making any lens, a macro lens.

 

3. MAKE IT GLIMMER

We have gone over the qualities of soft light and the pleasant appearance it bestows all over your photography and how bad direct light is. But there is something in a particular type of jewelry that actually demands to be hit with direct light in order to reveal its true beauty.

Gemstones and Diamonds.

A flicker of light
A flicker of light

Such jewelry requires direct light, ideally coming from the same distance and position where the camera is placed, to have the stones shining in their truest form. But this direct light can still not be from just any other light, as you do not want to end up getting hot spots and glares. Only a subtle fire and some small shiny flares glowing here and there is what you should be aiming for, and there is a lighting solution, namely Daylight colored LED light, that is designed specially to serve this purpose while leaving the tag-along hotspots and glares elsewhere!

Photo by © Aleksey Gnilenkov
Photo by © Aleksey Gnilenkov

Daylight colored LED light sheds the right amount of direct hard light on the focused area only, without creating problems for the other areas of the photo. This useful device easily fits into a sparkler light’s 5″ reflector.

At any rate, avoid using light bulbs in different colors and do not try to mix match them. Have consistent lighting throughout or else you will find yourself in the middle of a major condition of color correction!

How To Use:

Turn the LED light on and the fluorescent lights off. Place and direct it towards your jewelry in such a way that it shines straight into the gemstone and the stones twinkle. Switch your fluorescent lights back on.

As the LED lights are hitting directly onto the subject – unlike the other lights which are diffused coming through the light box – the intensity of these LEDs must be carefully adjusted to merely shed the right amount of light. This is why you should go for the LED lights that come with a regulator which enables you to have control over the light (the Mini Lite 350-2, for instance) as you may also find the kinds which do not support such a feature. You should only set the intensity to the point where your stones begin to sparkle, no more, no less.

Keep shooting some trial photos all along to see how your settings fare with camera’s eye.

 

4. CONTROLLING REFLECTIONS

 

How to Get a Reflective Base

An all time favorite for both photographers as well as the viewers, is the mirror like reflection they see of anything on the plain that thing is positioned on, creating a sense of depth down below and letting you go deeper into the photo. A nice reflection has an ability to double the impact of appeal you plan to deliver to the audience.

Reflections bestow profundity
Reflections bestow profundity

Generally, a piece of glass is used by expert photographers as their reflective base, and although glass is a more sturdy option, “High Gloss Acrylic” sheet is also a great and safe alternative. You can find it easily on Amazon in black, white and many different colors. Acrylic tends to bear scratches if you are not careful with handling it, hence it is advised to move your ornaments and other supplies very deftly over and around it for a long lasting finish. It comes with a protective screen on either sides and it’s better to let the side which you don’t use yet, stay protected with it, till you decide to use it too.

When you are going for an all black environment, you can use a panel of black velvet fabric as your background with the acrylic being your base for a rich velvety darkness all around. If not this, then black plastic or card sheets will work fine too. When you don’t add anything black at the background and leave it white – in case of using a light box – your acrylic base reflects that white from the walls and appears gray in the photos. Black velvet can be used as the base as well, when you do not want a reflective black surface.

Place your ornament at the heart of the base when you are getting a top-view shot, in order to get rid of any undesirable things or edges that find their way into the picture, using crop tool later. Similarly, place it close to the border, where the background and the base meet, to achieve the full black look easily.

In case you plan to shoot with acrylic or glass outside a light box, you may have to put in a little more time into setting everything up, so that nothing from the surroundings sneak into the image in the form of reflections.

How to Deal with Reflective Jewelry

As much as we love them and their remarkable luster, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Pearls and other mirror like jewelry can be sometimes tricky to handle, with them reflecting a little too much, which doesn’t look remarkable at all while photographing these beauties.

Jewelry that acts like a mirror - Photo by © Aleksey Gnilenkov
Jewelry that acts like a mirror – Photo by © Aleksey Gnilenkov

When you talk about Silver and Platinum in particular, you might want to photograph them against an all black or a dark metallic background, to allow them to shine at their fullest. The best lighting for any reflective jewelry is diffused light and it is best if you use a light box in this case, as not only it will give you diffused light, but it will also minimize the surrounding objects your jewelry sees and reflects. The lesser things it is exposed to, the better. Then sometimes, you might also find your camera reflecting in it, and for that you can always move the piece of jewelry a bit, so that even this is not an issue anymore.

With pearls, you want dimension. To make it appear as 3-dimensional as possible. In many photos of pearls, if you notice, you will find that they have been shot with too much light, than necessary. You can judge this by their flat finish, as for a ball like structure, a lone light transmitted straight from above it or from any one side, will shed a beautiful single highlight over it that immediately makes it appear more round, more 3 dimensional and provides depth. You can follow this advice, then shoot some photos with extra lighting also, and see for yourself what a difference this simple trick creates.

5. FLOATING JEWELS

Don’t like the idea of always having to place your jewelry over some sort of platform where often things like rings and charms are unable to sit upright? Would you just love to have them standing straight without the support of anything at all? or at least without anything that is visible?

Have your jewelry float in mid air using prop wax! In other words, you may call it the position holding wax. It has to be one of the most convenient things invented for jewelry photographers.

Prop Wax is a must have! - Photo by © Aleksey Gnilenkov
Prop Wax is a must have! – Photo by © Aleksey Gnilenkov

All You Need To Do:

Separate a tiny piece from any of the corners of the wax. Roll it between your index finger and thumb – or whichever way you like – until you have it shaped into a ball. Place it where you want your jewelry piece to be and gently press the jewelry piece over it. And that’s it! You now have a pendant/ring standing erect with the source of help unknown and concealed for the viewers.

 

6. STYLING & COMPOSITION

A good composition makes a great difference
A good composition makes a great difference

It’s not all about how to take a good photo, it is also about how to style that photo to bring out the best attributes of that piece of jewelry. There are some basic props that are commonly used by jewelry photographers such as:

  • Pyramid Ring Stand
  • Watch Stand
  • Pendant Stand
  • Earring Stand

But some photographers also tend to go for less common things like vintage lace and books, candles and flowers etc. What is important to understand here is that you should only opt for the latter option if you are a hundred percent sure that your prop is not going to become a distraction in any sort.

Such props are known for their attempts to come between the viewer and the main product when not shot carefully by the photographer. They get in the way of the precise, professional look you want to achieve. So, when you feel like introducing a prop in your photo, make sure you stylize the whole set in a way that your jewelry alone catches every eye at once. The prop should be set to help with adding a context to the image and highlight the jewelry even more.

MODEL OR NO MODEL?

So you have taken all the appropriate shots you could think of, but still… still you feel like something’s missing – a model maybe?

To have a model display the jewelry pieces for photography shoots has been a topic for a never ending argument. Some photographers side with it being thoroughly redundant while some are of the opinion that it has its own benefits too.

Two major benefits being, it gives an immediate sense of scale to the targeted audience and people can actually get to know what the ornament would truly look like when they wear it, instead of just imagining it in their heads. This now contradicts with another hypothesis that people don’t need to know any of that, they only need to know it’s pretty. And a pro photographer’s job is to make even the not-so-pretty-things look pretty!

Anyhow, this was just to enlighten you with what the argument is about, but if you know you can pull something off and quite effectively at that, then you should totally go for it. Just make certain that you keep the outfit for the model extremely simple to evade distractions and do not have the model look into the camera, as eyes then become a greater source of attraction and you don’t want that. The photo might also need a bit more retouching than usual because of the model. You will need to conceal all the blemishes and other flaws.

BONUS TIP:

Do you strongly feel that you should include a model but can’t afford to? This trick is for you! Get a free image of a model off the internet or pay what is much less compared to hiring a model to the stock photos people and get one from there, then all you do is shoot photographs of your jewelry in a way that you can easily Photoshop it on your model’s image!

7. BACKDROP

Backgrounds have a tendency to grant character to anything. It brings an added soul to a story. And photography is mostly about telling a story, conveying a message or delivering a point across, even when it is a simple piece of jewelry that is shown in the picture.

If you generalize, the most commonly used backgrounds can be: Basic stark white, Basic black, plain yet colored backgrounds, gradients and then you have patterned and textured backgrounds, whether in monochrome or colorful.

A basic white background works as an all rounder, almost all sorts of jewelry can be shot against it. Although it is best to shoot silver, white gold and platinum against dark colored or black backdrops, with flattering angles, the rightly balanced light and maybe using a subtle prop alongside the subject, you can still manage great photos of silver against white. White can also be termed as the most no-fuss background, whereas any other background requires some great deal of contemplation.

With the help of a good, well thought background, you can add a variety of moods to the ambiance where you have placed your jewelry, swaying people away to another world. Colorful, textured or patterned backgrounds can be brought into use at many places for this purpose but just as with props, watch out for distracting backgrounds also. You don’t want anything else to steal the show, you simply want to accentuate the beauty of your main subject. The “limelight” must always remain on your jewelry only.

Too much happening at the background creates tension
Too much happening at the background, creates tension

While deciding on a background, you should also take into consideration the image and perception of the brand in the target audience’s minds. The audience, whom these photos are going to be targeted at, should be able to relate to them.

8. PHOTO ESSAY

If you are a photographer learning to photograph your own jewelry to sell online, here is a tip on how to present your work. With people entirely relying on your photos before ordering, they need to know what the product looks like from each angle, what would it feel like, how big in size it is when worn and so on.

And if you are a photographer working for a client or just escalating your portfolio, this tip goes equally for you, as in your case your client would want to have a look at a good set of different angles too, displaying a piece of jewelry in all sorts of  gratifying ways.

Display the jewelry from various angles - Photo by © First Last
Display the jewelry from various angles – Photo by © First Last

It is just like producing any other photo essay – telling a story through pictures. Presenting a certain matter from various positions for the audience to think and act upon. Only in this case that “matter” is the jewelry. A straight-on image from the front, an angled image, a close-up , a shot of the whole set and a top view are just a few examples of what can be included in it.

9. TAKE NOTES:

Take lots of pictures while experimenting with all these tips and techniques. It is only natural to go through a trial and error phase before you turn into an awe-inspiring professional. But something that will make this progression quicker is your habit to make note of everything you feel you should remember for the next time, for a particular occasion or forever. For instance, points related to lighting, camera settings according to different lighting set ups, things you discover on your own, etc. Jot everything down into a notebook and this way even if you don’t practice for a while, you won’t have to go through the whole process again, you’ll still have your discoveries, good points and bad points, all of it preserved with you!

Wish you the best of luck for all your ventures. Hope you learnt some useful stuff from this post. Cheers!

                           

The Art of Headshot Photography

The Art of Headshot Photography

If you are a photographer in search of  valuable ways to do well in headshot photography, we have covered everything in this post that will help you reach your goal and beyond!

A great looking professional portrait has become an essential for more people than can be counted, with a growing number of people becoming more and more career oriented. Hence, the demand for a headshot has also increased in the past years.

What clients look for in a headshot photographer is his ability to make them appear polished, good looking, easily approachable and an enthusiastic professional. There are photographers who exclusively specialize in this field of photography, because it encompasses a whole separate world in itself!

The basic things you need to get right, first and foremost are the light. The background and the poses your clients assume is the next very important thing, to showcase the kind of aura your clients expect you to capture about them in those simple and powerful head-and-shoulder portraits and trust you entirely that you will guide them around it. So you sort of have a responsibility to live up to their expectations.

All you need to do, is to dedicate yourself into excelling in these and you will be producing consistent spectacular head shots in no time!

Let’s take a look further into the details of each aspect and explore their fullest capacity for improvement.

Interacting with the client

Is Your Client Comfortable Enough?

Like with any other field of photography involving people, you need for your clients to loosen up once they are in front of the camera. You must understand that for the client it is not easy to be standing there alone, posing, having all the attention directed at them, so it naturally makes them feel awkward – unless they are actors and models by profession. But if you want to make the most of this opportunity to keep getting better at what you love to do and attain “consistency” in producing brilliant shots, you might want to work on prompting your folks to come out of their shell first.

Therefore, it is important for you to interact with them like you would do with your best pal. That is, be open, be cool and be silly. Give them time to relax to the core and make the hidden star in them emerge and SHINE! Some pep talk prior to the shoot is always encouraging. What you can do is, ask them what kind of portrait they have in mind?

Everyone has something or the other already imagined in the back of their heads. Discussing it out with them will help them know that you care. You can sit down with them and go over the different types of headshots already known to work with their particular genre of occupation and guide them as to what will suit best with their overall look and everything.

Moreover, if they set an appointment with you on call, ask them to come over to the studio and meet with you personally someday before the shoot, so that both of you can get an idea of what the other person is like, know what to expect from each other on the day of shoot and discuss the above mentioned details, rather than having them show up right on the shooting day.

If the client's comfortable, you get amazing shots!
If the client’s comfortable, you get amazing shots!

During the shoot you must keep on guiding them and encourage them every now and then by dropping praises, and whenever you get a good shot, let them have a look too to offer confidence. You can also have some music playing in the background depending on the kind of mood you are trying to achieve in the photos, as music is known to have its effect on the mind.

Just remember that a healthy affiliation between the client and the photographer leads to a better photo shoot.

[AdSense-A]

The Ambiance

Typically, you will find most people picking plain backgrounds, however, to bring in more variety it has also become common now to choose an office like setting, an outdoor rugged wall, having greenery at the back and so on. But to understand the nature of this matter manifestly, let’s just put it this way:

The setting where a head shot is taken, depends entirely on the client’s branding (Whether they are businessmen/women, artist, actor, into real estate or any other).

1. Although a plain white or dark background works well for all professions, it is not set in stone and therefore, you may find your client going for any other appropriate option. In such cases, make certain that the focus stays strictly on the person in question only and everything else must be blurred – for that you use a wide aperture.

The head should be in a clean spot. No tree branches sticking out of the head, a door line angled right across it or anything like that. These as you can imagine, create juxtaposition and also become a strong distraction. Simply, the face must pop off the page and nothing else.

Outdoor headshots can turn out great too! - Photo by © Kenneth Lim
Outdoor headshots can turn out great too! – Photo by © Kenneth Lim

Also, try to compose your other-than-studio-portraits having a symmetry in them, like if you have your person standing in a corridor, frame them right in the middle of it to get a balanced neat look.

When You Choose Outdoors, in order to get the best light, make sure to:

  • Take photos an hour after sunrise.
  • Take photos an hour before sunset.
  • Avoid having the light source directly behind your subject.

2. When the background has been decided to be a plain white one, you can either have them pose in front of a white wall, use a roll of paper or a large reflector. The light angled towards the background can help you achieve a few varied appearances. For a blown out background, turn the light on full power, whereas grey-ish color can be achieved with a lower power.

3. It will not be a good prospect to have your frames cropped too tight, some negative space left around the subject adds context to a photograph. Having said that, if your subject is looking towards the right for instance, then you should bring in more space from the right into the frame and less from the left.

 

Lights, camera, head shot!
Lights, camera, head shot!

The Mechanism

1. An uncomplicated setup option would be to have two lights, one of them positioned towards the background while the other, the main light, in front of and directed towards your subject, slightly off center and to the side and a tad higher.

Place a reflector in the against direction of the main light. This will help eliminate harsh shadows and soften any hard edges, acting as a third source of light. The light you get from a flash or a speedlight is hard and highly unfavorable if you use it without any diffuser.

One way to make the light soft, is to bounce it off by letting it hit a wall and reflecting back to the face, while another way is to use a softbox or umbrellas. If you place an umbrella on your main light, it will help to feather the light a little and instead of hitting directly with all its brightness straight at the subject’s face, the light will smoothly embrace the contour of the face.

2. To avoid lens distortion, avoid using wide angle lenses. Use a lens with a wide aperture, which means having a small f-number. It is a better option for shooting close up shots or head shots, because, If you take a few steps back and zoom in on the face, it blurs and smooths the background out as well as making the edges soft around the face. 85 mm and above, generally fairs well with close up shots of faces.

If you are unable to get hold of a lens with large aperture then an in-camera filter can be an alternate option.

DIY TIP

Use a giant white card (for example the back or plain white side of an oversize birthday card), get your client to hold it like a tray, lower enough so it doesn’t appear in the frame and angle your light in such a way that it bounces off the card and onto the subject’s face.

Attitude and Stance

We discussed above on how to get your subject to relax, now we will contemplate on how to get them to pose in a manner that accentuates their personality to the fullest and get them to look how a professional portrait necessitates.

Pose to accentuate the personality - Photo by © Nick Gregan (Mel Michael Actors Headshot © Nick Gregan)
Pose that accentuates the personality – Photo by © Nick Gregan

1. First things first – Shoulders back! You might need to repeat this phrase over and over again, but it is best to keep reminding them of it, as in today’s world where everything has digitized, hunched backs are becoming a prevalent habit and people tend to do it unconsciously now, so you better beware that there’s no hunch back action going around.

2. Deal with the jaw line! A jaw line is a lot of things. From being a beautiful curve that accentuates ones features; something everybody loves and wants, it is also that which can make one look old and – since we are talking about head shots specifically – BAD if one has bulkiness around it aka double chin.

To capture a smooth, neat jaw line and a slim neck, Peter Hurley, a famous head shot photographer from New York, explains some great techniques in this video.

The basic trick is to ask your subject to bring their forehead slightly forward, stand at 45 degrees angle, drop the shoulder that is facing the camera down a bit – and not to drop the back shoulder down as that fairs poorly with the jaw line – tilt their neck sideways or back a little while still looking into the camera.

3. Now let’s come to the eyes. Eyes play a major part in portraits. In head shots, eyes become the focal point that MUST catch the viewer’s attention as soon as they take a look at a photo. Now the key to remember here is that you must never let your clients just stare at the lens looking like – as many accomplished photographers say – a deer caught in the headlight.

You want them to deliver through their eyes as if they posses all the confidence of the world. You don’t want them to look uncomfortable, shocked, scared or stressed, so make them practice smiling with their eyes! Tell them to think about all the good things in their life that make them happy and to imagine them with open eyes. All the while, carry on with cracking jokes, asking questions, giving directions through it all to make it easier for them!

Peter Hurley also introduced a super cool trick for eyes and named it a “squinch” which is a combination of squint and pinch. Doing this automatically makes a person look like they have something clever going around in their heads and a knowing “smiling” expression erupts in the eyes. To know more about it, watch his video here.

Having the camera slightly above and shooting down on them makes the eyes appear bigger and also assists in avoiding the dreaded double chin.

4. A head shot doesn’t necessarily mean only the head is to appear in the photo, you can also sometimes include their hands in the frame. So when you meet up with a client and if they happen to like nail polish, ask them not to wear any other color than neutral or clear for the shoot as colored polish will turn into a distraction.

Hands can be a part of the headshot
Just because it’s a headshot, doesn’t mean there can’t be hands in it.

Operation Buff Up

1. Phew! It’s done. The shoot is over. Now comes the processing part. A little tweaking here, some polishing there. It’s nothing too hard. All you do is pick the best shots, open them with your Camera Raw plug-in, modify the white balance, adjust the exposure and correct the contrast.

2. Your clients will vary in all kind of ways. Shape, size, posture, looks, some will have spotless skin while some might posses wrinkles, some will have a fresh look whereas some might look tired. Their eyes will say different things acquiring different manners and so will their smiles – you may get straight, flawless teeth and then some crooked ones also.

Retouching makes your headshots flawless!
A little retouching goes a long way!

As your job is to make them all look shipshape, a little re-touching on Photoshop, where required, hurts none. Things that generally call for attention can be as follows:

  • Blemishes. As discussed, you may get a case of bad skin and acne sometimes, revealing even from under the layer of makeup, and where perhaps diffused light failed to conceal much too. Bring Doctor Photoshop to the rescue! You can easily even out the skin and relieve it of all spots and blemishes with its help.
  • Wrinkles. Harmonize the wrinkles and under-eye-bags a tad and your client will be sure to thank you enough for that!
  • The Mighty Eyes. Adjust the levels and curves over the eyes in a way so as to make them appear crystal-like. Brighter, sharper and clear!
  • Pearly Whites. Even out the rows of teeth and make them whiter for a bright captivating smile.

Play around with all this while still adhering close to reality. Make sure not to go over board during this process, your aim is to only re-touch slightly and not make the person look like someone they are not when you meet them in person!

3. Prepare a contact sheet. It is a grid that holds all the best elected photos to compare and choose from. Makes it easier for the client to decide which one they like best to display wherever they want.

Bonus Tip

Watch out for meddlesome reflections if your subject is wearing spectacles! To steer clear of any such thing, when you set the main light slightly off center and somewhat directed from a side, ask your subject to move their head a bit in the opposite direction of the light, this will help minimize the reflection and if the glass is still stealing some reflections then this will direct them away from the camera’s eye.

So these were the essentials to carry out while shooting headshots, hope this helped, now the more you practice the finer you become. All the best to you. Cheers!