Thursday, 2 of July of 2015

5 Great Mobile Photography Tips

5 Great Mobile Photography Tips

As more and more people become comfortable using their smartphone’s built-in cameras for grabbing quick snapshots and using apps like Instagram to share them with other mobile photographers over the Internet, mobile photography is becoming a broader and more accepted field of photography that embraces the limitations and imperfections that come with the territory and seeks to leave its own imprint on the world without necessarily replacing or displacing any other aspects of photography. With that in mind, we have some tips for any would-be mobile photographers out there to keep in mind the next time they reach for their smartphone in order to grab a quick snapshot to add to their growing digital stockpile!

1) Clean the lens — It’s easy to forget to clean your phone’s camera lens regularly but you should do it. Between all the transfers from your pocket to your backpack or purse, being carried around, set on tables, couches, on the ground, and all points in between, the lens is going to pick up a fair bit of dust, dirt, and grime. Wipe it off!

2) Don’t use the zoom — The zoom built into your camera’s software isn’t true optical zoom. It’s digital zoom which will result in pixelation and artifacts in your images. Using it will decrease the quality of your images significantly.

3) Composition is still important — Just because you’re taking photos on your phone doesn’t mean you can ignore all of the rules of composition entirely. Remember things like the Rule of Thirds, to not use distracting backgrounds, not to over-rely on post-processing to fix everything, keep your camera steady and stable, and find something interesting to capture.

4) Check your settings — Adjust your focus and your lighting settings as needed. Just because you’re shooting on a phone doesn’t mean you have no controls at all!

5) Take multiple shots from multiple angles — Don’t rely on just one shot. Take multiple shots from several angles and use your camera’s editing software to help you composite them together.

Mobile photography is a great way to get started in photography if you’re interested in it. Just remember to embrace the limitations instead of letting them irritate you as you follow the advice above and you’ll be off to a good start!

— da Bird

6 Underwater Photography Tips and Tricks

6 Underwater Photography Tips and Tricks

This summer while you’re out at the beach, you might want to take the time to try out some true underwater photography. There are many places where you can go snorkeling or go on a shallow open water SCUBA dive after a brief safety course. If you have a camera that is truly waterproof (not just water resistant) and is rated to go at least to a depth of 30 meters, then you should consider giving underwater photography a real try. You may need to look into renting or borrowing some additional gear — especially if you are going to be diving in open water and not a man-made structure like a swimming pool. However, the shots you can get from a dive can be truly memorable and can give you a chance to share with others a part of the world that covers 70% of our planet but which we have just barely begun to explore. These tips will be certain to help you get the most from your dive photos this summer!

1) Invest in lights — The world underwater is dark. The sun’s light does not penetrate very far beneath the surface. You’ll need to take your own light with you in order to keep your photos from looking too dark or too washed out. Strobes are the preferred light source of choice for underwater photography.

2) Get close to your subject — The lack of light means that you’ll need to be closer to your subject in order to capture it well. This includes fish and other animals. If you keep your movements calm, slow, and gentle, you should be able to keep from spooking them.

3) Remember to pay attention to color and composition — It’s easy to forget to remember that underwater photos need to have subjects and something in the foreground and background to catch the viewer’s attention. It’s also easy to forget to dial up the color slightly and to wind up with photos that are too washed-out or dark.

4) Not using the right settings — You’ll want to make certain that you dial up the sharpness, get out of landscape mode and into portrait mode and shoot vertically, and don’t over-saturate the colors.

5) Using the wrong lens — Just because you have a super telephoto zoom lens that will let you shoot great photos of the moon does not mean it’s going to do the same thing underwater. There are many reasons for this — refraction, light, the properties of water itself — so spare yourself the headache that comes whenever you butt heads with the laws of physics and go with a wide-angle or macro lens.

6) Be prepared to spend time editing — Underwater photography does require a good bit more editing than normal photography. You will need to spend time tweaking your photos to increase the lighting, tone the colors, and enhance the sharpness a bit. You won’t be able to edit a terrible photo into a great one but you will be able to make a murky photo (and almost all underwater photos are murky, especially for a novice photographer) a good bit clearer.

Underwater photography is a fun way to explore Earth’s underwater world. We hope that these helpful tips will get you started in this area of photography and, if they do, that you’ll share those photos and experiences with us!

— da Bird

Welcoming Persian Gulf by Hamed Saber. All other images from the public domain.

4 Storm Photography Tips

4 Storm Photography Tips

In some parts of the United States (particularly the Southeast), summer time means storm time. Storm time can mean a great time for photography if you’re brave and creative. So long as you take reasonable precautions and don’t take foolhardy risks, you can capture some absolutely amazing images. Storm photographers can also help to capture valuable data for climate scientists and meteorologists to use in their weather models and warning systems which can be used to help save lives from deadly natural phenomena like tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. If there’s a better reason to capture these dangerously beautiful images, we don’t know it. So, to help you do that, we’ve got some great storm photography tips for you below!

1) Account for the wind — Strong winds will make holding your camera steady difficult so take the heaviest, sturdiest tripod you have. If you’re shooting in an area that has soft soil, you can drive the feet into the ground to hold it stable. If the ground is rocky, you can use a sandbag or a weighted bag to weigh it down and keep it stable. You’ll also want to remember the wind when it comes to your umbrella — use a heavy-grade umbrella that does not turn inside-out due to the wind. This can not only help with protecting your lens, it can help with the weight a bit.

2) Don’t forget about the rain, either — The aforementioned umbrella can help you deal with the ran but you might want to consider getting a camera rain-coat or investing in a waterproof housing if your camera isn’t water resistant. If you don’t have one handy, you can always make one yourself using a heavy-duty plastic bag and some duct tape (duct tape — is there anything it can’t do?)

3) Carry some filters and be ready to adjust to lighting at a moment’s notice — Storms are infamous for their lightning-fast lighting changes. The sky can go from clear to completely overcast in less than three minutes. Lightning can flash, nearly blinding you, then leaving you in darkness with only the afterimage seared in your retina. You’ll need to be intimately acquainted with your camera’s settings well beforehand and be ready to change them quickly. If you’re planning to try to capture images of lightning, you’ll need to be patient and have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

4) Don’t forget about composition — It’s easy to get so focused on capturing the storm and forget to compose your shots. If your photos aren’t well-composed and interesting with elements in the foreground and background, then they may not capture the interest of the viewer. So, if you can, take the time to set up your shot and try to frame it so that the storm activity you’re photographing is highlighted by the elements in the foreground.

Storm photography is beautiful and useful, so long as reasonable precautions are taken. With these four tips, your storm photos are sure to come out better than ever before!

— da Bird

Twin Tornadoes by Kelly DeLay
Camera Zip-lock by aneel
Lightning Storm Panorama by Catalin.Fatu

Scaling and Perspective

One of the greatest tricks used in photography is that of scale and perspective. The human eye is easy to trick into “filling in the gaps” when there’s no way to accurately judge how large an object is because there is nothing nearby to measure it against. This can be used for nefarious purposes (such as with the Loch Ness Monster) or it can be used for benign purposes. This week, we’re going to look into some of the tricks that photographers and cinematographers use to create larger-than-life images without having to actually build them larger-than-life.

1) Setting the stage — This is one of the preferred methods and it’s probably one of the most common. In it, the photographer sets a stage that will trick the eye and then uses scaled models to create the effects they need for the image to work. This is how many of the exterior shots of the USS Enterprise were done for Star Trek and it’s how The Lord of the Rings captured the spanning vistas in their Minas Tirith shots.

For Star Trek, the directors and photographers created a flat black backdrop with “stars.” Humans are pyschologically wired to assume that anything “flying” through such a space is larger than them because the black background gives no sense of scale by itself so we use the stars for our reference points. Since we “know” that the stars are tiny dots of light, anything that is larger than them is large. We also know that they’re very far away so anything large and close to us will be easy to see even in the absence of daylight (which makes us tend to assume it’s large).

For Minas Tirith, the directors set the scale model of the city against an equally scaled backdrop of mountains and grasslands. Since we “know” that mountains are big, anything that we can see starkly against a mountain and is at the same distance as those mountains must also be “big.”

2) Forced perspective — This trick is most well-known for its use in scaling the hobbit characters against their human counterparts in The Lord of the Rings. However, it was also used to create the effect of Godzilla smashing Tokyo and King Kong climbing the Empire State Building. In the last two examples, the directors and photographers built a scale model of the city/building they wanted to use and then had a human in costume supply the rest by either wearing lizard feet and a tail while smashing Tokyo to bits or by scaling the Empire State Building with an analogue of the actress tucked in their arm.

He must be huge! Just look at him!

…oh. Another dream destroyed…
The trick worked because we “know” that cities are big and anything that can just stomp on buildings must be huge, right?

3) Misleading cues — This is the last of the major tricks employed in these kinds of shots. The best example of it is the actress in King Kong’s clutches. For the close-up shots of her, she was actually placed in a mechanical hand built large enough to render the effect. When the camera turned away (from the viewer’s perspective) to a distant shot, the actor in the King Kong suit was holding an analogue of the actress which editors in post-production painted up to look like the actress. It’s easy to see these tricks in the classic film. Today, it’s used heavily in computer generated effects to keep us looking at one part of the screen so we don’t track what’s going on elsewhere.

Tricking the mind and eye is something that photographers and videographers have been doing for many years. They don’t do it out of a desire to con us for their own ends but in order to help us suspend disbelief for a specific effect. However, knowing how its done can help us spot it and appreciate it when these tactics are pulled off skillfully as well as letting us adapt and use them for our own photography!

— da Bird

Star Trek BTS image via Tom Redlaw
Godzilla Movie Still via SodaHead
Godzilla Behind The Scenes image via Retronaut

Profiles in Photography: Lynne Cohen

This week our photography profile focuses on the late Lynne Cohen. She was most well-known for her artistic work in photographing interior spaces such as living rooms, public halls, retirement homes, laboratories, showrooms, offices, factories, spas, and outdoor spaces such as shooting ranges and military bases. She did not photograph these spaces with an eye towards commercial photography or real estate but instead to show the beauty of the space itself. She rarely photographed people in the spaces, preferring to show the space by itself instead of the ways it might be occupied or used.

Lynne was born in Racine, Wisconsin in 1944 and studied printmaking and sculpture at the University of Wisconsin. She later moved to Canada where she worked mostly out of Ottawa. In 2005, she was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Her work has been published in catalogues such as Occupied Territory and No Man’s Land. In her photography, Cohen used an 8 x 10″ view camera which allowed her to capture great detail and create very large prints.

Lynne Cohen died just over a year ago on May 12, 2014. Still, her work is both informative and beautiful. If you find large spaces — interior or exterior, industrial or rural — appealing, you should check out her work and let it influence your own!

— da Bird

5 Great Tourism Photography Tips

With summer here and vacation time having finally arrived, it’s time to get out of your normal routine and go out on adventures in new and exciting locales. While you’re there, you’ll want to capture as many images as you can. However, carting your camera and gear around with you can be challenging — not to mention the fact that some places have rules concerning when and where you can take photos. Figuring out how to get the best photos of your vacation you can get can be tricky. That’s why we’re going to provide you with a few helpful photography tips below!

1) Secure your gear — If you’re going to be traveling by air, you’ll want to make certain that your photography equipment is securely packed — perhaps surrounded by bubble wrap or other packing material — to protect it from damage in transit. If you have space in your carry-on or are not taking any personal baggage, you can carry your camera and gear with you on the flight so long as it meets the dimension requirements for that airline.

2) Get insurance — If you have a DSLR and several lenses, purchasing insurance on your gear may be worthwhile. This could help you keep down the costs of repairing or replacing any gear that is damaged while traveling or while out on your vacation.

3) Check out the venue in advance — Most popular tourist sites will have rules concerning photography on their premises posted online. Check them out and know them before you get there. In addition, some sites even have dress codes (such as Notre Dame de Paris) and will not allow you in if you are not dressed properly.

4) Memorize the best settings for your equipment — Trying to figure out which settings to use is not something you want to put off until after you’ve arrived at your destination. After all, if you want to capture silhouettes against a sunset, the sun is hardly going to stop setting just because you’re not certain which ISO to shoot with.

5) Carry extra memory cards — Just don’t put them through the X-Ray scanner if you’re flying. Still, when you get where you’re going, carry a few extra cards with you so you don’t have to worry about running out of space and then have to make a special trip back to your hotel in order to grab more.

Vacation days are a great time to capture some memorable photos — especially if you’re going to do some traveling this summer. Just follow the tips above and use your common sense and you’ll be certain to have plenty of images to share with your family and friends from this summer’s grand adventures!

— da Bird

4 Summer Photography Tips

4 Summer Photography Tips

Summer is a great time to get to work on your photography. Where spring is ever-changing with its blooming flowers and unpredictable weather patterns, summer is a time of overall sameness with fields growing and greening until they go yellow near autumn. Trees have regained their leaves and flowers are bloomed and filling the air with their sweet scent. Days are longer and the sun is somewhat brighter and higher in the sky this time of year. This can pose all kinds of challenges for photographers since the sun can wreak havoc on your carefully selected camera settings. However, with our helpful photography tips below, you can make these challenges a relative non-issue!

1) Overexposing isn’t always bad — Overexposure is something you should generally work to avoid. However, with the summer sun blazing down, overexposing your images can be tricky. Underexposing can cause your photos to show up dark or washed out. If you manage your exposure levels well, you can go up a few stops and bring out the vibrant colors of summer without making it impossible to tell what it was you were trying to photograph in the first place.

2) Filters are good — If you’re taking a lot of outdoor photos, you’ll want to carry around some UV and polarizing filters to help you deal with the sun. They can help you get the right exposure level and color balance in your photos without requiring you to take overly elaborate measures with shaders, light bouncers, or other means of lighting control that may not work in every setting.

3) The weather doesn’t have to be perfect — Sometimes overcast or cloudy weather can help you get clearer, cooler photos. Storm photography can also net you some very memorable images so long as you’re careful. Don’t be afraid to venture out in inclement weather (though you will want to make certain your gear is protected) and go a little off the beaten path in your pursuit of the perfect photo.

4) Beaches are beautiful any time — Most people head to the beach this time of year which means that there is plenty of opportunity for photography of all kinds. Consider, though, zigging where everyone else is zagging and take your photos during sunrise or sunset. Experiment with different styles of photography while out on the sands and, if you have the gear, look into taking your photography underwater.

The summer season is a time of vacations, travel, and a bit of leisure after the hectic winter and spring months. Take your camera with you where ever you go and use our tips to help you make the most of these magnificent months!

— da Bird

Summer Sunrise Mountain Flowers by
Woman in field by SplitShire
Those summer nights by Ashley Campbell

4 Graduation Day Photo Tips

School days are coming to a close and for some that means an end to their days in school entirely. Graduation ceremonies with all of their attendant pomp and circumstance will soon be taking place across the country. Whether your graduate is finishing up high school, college, or receiving an advanced degree such as an MD, JD, or Ph.D., graduation day is a very special occasion that definitely calls for a camera to document the festivities and the ceremony. Commencement addresses are often given by carefully selected guest speakers, even celebrities, so getting photos of them is a real treat even beyond getting photos of your graduate. Still, the day belongs to those who have labored and toiled in their studies so we have some photo tips for you to use to ensure that your photos of their big day show them at their absolute best!

1) Know the venue in advance — If the ceremony is being held outdoors, then the lighting requirements and the lens and camera settings you’ll prefer will be different than if the ceremony were being held indoors. So, know that in advance and select your gear with the venue in mind. Also, be aware that you may not be able to get up and move among the graduating students during the ceremony unless you are one of the venue or event photographers (so, friends and family take note)!

2) Don’t let the event lull you into being dull — Let’s be frank: graduation ceremonies are boring once you get to the point where they’re passing out the diplomas. Everyone is there for one (or two) people and has to sit through the hundreds (or thousands) of other names being called out. Still, don’t let this cause you to zone out and not capture anything. Move around as much as you are able and capture the ceremony from various angles and distances.

3) Get the hat toss — This is the big one (after getting the photo of your grad getting his or her diploma, of course). The best tactic is to get low to the ground and shoot upwards. If some of the hats are obscured by shadows, that’s fine. If you’re going to be shooting towards the sun, make certain you’ve factored that into account back in step 1 and have the necessary filters so that you don’t melt your sensors!

4) Beware the fake smile — Almost 87% of graduate group photos are posed* which means there’s going to be a higher than even chance of encountering the dreaded Fake Smileā„¢. This is the smile that is a plastered-on movement of the lips only — the rest of the face and body show no emotion other than boredom or anxiety. Try to convince your grad and friends to relax and use a natural expression instead of painting on a fake smile that will come out looking dead in the photos later.

Graduation is a time to celebrate a very important milestone in a person’s life. It’s great to photograph the occasion and the graduate. Just be sure to follow these helpful tips to get the best photos of the day that you can!

— da Bird

Beautiful Chinese Girl by Dominic Rivard

Outdoor Portrait Tips

Spring is officially here. Prom season, spring dances, graduation, and more occasions are filling up most people’s social calendars and the warmer weather and longer days mean that these events aren’t limited to indoors-only type of venues. Whether or not there’s a special occasion like one of the ones listed above, many people will find themselves taking photos out-of-doors over the next few months. For most things, this is fine but when you’re trying to capture photos of people, you need to know a few tricks to make certain that you get the best outdoor portrait (or group) photos you can!

1) Know where the sun is — This is probably the most basic thing that most people forget when doing outdoor portraits. Pay attention to where the sun is. The sun’s light can cause a lot of problems with overexposure in your photos so you don’t want to be shooting directly towards it. Further, your subject (people) will reflexively squint if forced to face the sunlight directly. So, know where the sun is and position yourself and your subjects accordingly!

Though, with attention, you can get some cool effects if you know your gear and settings well
2) Beware of shadows — Don’t try to dodge the direct sunlight issue entirely by going into a completely shaded area. That can cause its own set of problems from underexposure, color balance issues, low-light problems, etc. You might try finding a place where you have a good mix of lighting conditions or can easily alter the lighting amounts by moving curtains.

3) Bouncers are your friend — No, not the friendly guys who guard the entrances to clubs and check IDs. Bouncers are handy little things you can use to bounce light around to where you need it. They can be mirrors, prisms, or aluminum foil stretched over a hula hoop for the dedicated DIY photographer (though we do have some pre-made if you’re not into DIY).

Tarps and other drapes can be blockers or bouncers in a pinch, too
4) Pay attention to temperature — Temperatures are climbing during these months and if you’re taking formal wear or graduation photos, you’ll want to be aware of the fact that direct sunlight + heavy or confining clothing + high daily temperatures = sweat and possible fainting. If you live in an area that often gets heat advisories, be aware of them and don’t pressure your subjects to make themselves ill for the sake of photos.

Outdoor portraits can be great keepsakes whether they’re taken for a special occasion by a professional photographer or if they’re just snapshots taken on a random road trip by a friend. Just keep a few of these tricks in mind to get the most from your outdoor photo sessions during these bright and beautiful months!

— da Bird

We Will Stay Forever by Kamal Zharif Kamaludin
Camp Tarp by Joel Friesen

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings us to the end of another fun week in the world of photography. This week has been filled with plenty of news and helpful tips, tricks, guides, and more for photographers from their friends and fellows across the Internet. Along with news and and announcements about new gear hitting shelves or old gear being re-purposed in new ways, we had plenty of stories covering all kinds of tricks to help everyone from wedding photographers to drone pilots in our Twitter feed this week.

However, if you’re not following us on Twitter, we’ll recap the highlights for you below!

That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and we’ll see you again next week!