Tuesday, 29 of July of 2014

Sports Photography Tips

Sports Photography Tips

With the summer weather reaching its height and the school bells preparing to ring in the next school year, it’s time for many sports to start their try-outs and pre-season (or post-season) practice sessions. Football is the biggest one in the United States at the moment but baseball, basketball, tennis — and for the non-athletes, marching band — are also in the mix even if their official seasons have a ways to come before they start. That means that it’s time for parents and sports fans to gear up to capture the action. Our friends over at Photo.net have a great in-depth guide on perfecting sports photography but we’d like to give you a few quick and simple tips to try from the stands if you’re not one of the lucky few who can get access to the sidelines.

1) A lens can, in a small way, make up for not being on the sidelines — If you’re trying to get the best action shots you can, you’ll want to be as close to the action as you can be. However, access to the sidelines is a very difficult thing to come by especially at college or professional sporting events. So, if you know you’re going to be in the stands and if you know you’re not going to be allowed to get up and move or choose your own seats, carry the following lenses with you: a wide-angle lens (to get good shots of the venue and the overall match), a mid-range zoom lens (great for if your seats aren’t too far away from the sidelines), and a telephoto lens (good for if you’re far from the action). Using these can help bring the action in closer to make up for the fact that, physically, you’re not in the thick of it.

2) If you’re not a sports fan, take the time and effort to become one — If you’re a parent or a friend who is just wanting to record the game or get shots of your particular player, then there isn’t a need for you to be able to quote NFL stats, to be able to recite the Baseball Rulebook, or to know the history of Wimbledon. However, even if you are there just to support one (or a few) players and get some shots of them, it will definitely be to your benefit to have a good understanding of the game and to be able to make a few predictions about how certain strategies might play out. Yes, yes, in football, every team’s own playbook is a heavily guarded secret. However, it’s still worth your time to learn how the various downs are decided, if a pass is likely to be an interception, an incomplete, or a fumble, how base-stealing works, and when a penalty shot will be granted for a foul if you’re going to photograph football, baseball, or basketball games. Knowing the rules will help you determine where the action has the best chance of happening within the next few seconds, allowing you to focus in on it — especially if it’s your child or friend who’s going to be in the thick of it.

3) Get a tripod. Get a tripod. Get. A. Tripod — Sports are fast-paced and there’s very rarely a do-over. If you missed a shot, you’re not going to get a chance to get that same shot later. The very nature of sports is going to require you to use a fast shutter speed, a high ISO, and a wide aperture. These three things together mean that camera shake — even if your camera’s chip has built-in image stabilization — will be a factor. Eliminate it by getting a tripod.

4) Be aware of the situation around you — While you’re not going to be on the field of play (seriously, would you want to drag an expensive camera and lenses out to where the players could ram right into you and break it?), if you’re on the sidelines, having the players or the ball hit you is a possibility (and in baseball having the ball hit you in the stands isn’t out of the realm of reality). However, no matter where you are, there are going to be other people there. If you’re on the sidelines, it will be other photographers, coaches, referees, and players. Do your best to stay out of the coaches’ and refs’ way because they have a better reason for being there than you do. Other photographers will probably be fairly courteous but expect a good bit of jostling and competition for the best spots. If you’re in the stands, try to make certain that your photography isn’t causing the people behind you grief by making it impossible for them to watch the game. Also, if you’re filming or shooting from an aisle, keep an eye out on people going to and from their seats and on kids running around.

5) If you’re allowed into a practice session, be doubly aware of your surroundings — If you are photographing a practice or a try-out event where you’re allowed onto the field and can actually get within a few feet of the athletes, make certain you know what’s going on around you. In high contact sports like football especially, it’s easy to get accidentally bowled over or run into by the players who are focused on doing whatever their coach has set them to working on and not whether or not there’s a photographer in their intended path. A good grasp of practical physics and geometry can help you figure out not only where to be for some shots but also where not to be.

Follow these general guidelines and take the time to read up on some more in-depth sports photography tips and you should be able to come home from the next game with respectable shots to show off. If you have any questions or further tips, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another busy week in the world of photography has come to a close and this week has been especially filled with advice, announcements about events, and breakdowns of photography gear and cameras. Photographers such as Scott Kelby, schools like MIT, and events like ShutterFest have all had big news stories this week aimed at helping create more photographers and helping current photographers hone their skills in the craft. In addition to these stories, Sony, Panasonic, and Olympus have all released major updates to gear, firmware, and cameras. And, as always, photojournalists around the world have been covering the big news stories from the Malaysian flight crashing in the Ukraine to the last sailing of the ship Concordia.

All of these stories and more were covered in our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


So, Why the Make-Up?

So, Why the Make-Up?

This has been a question buzzing around my mind for a while whenever I would sit down and start really analyzing television shows or movies since I have vague ambitions of one day writing my own TV series. In between noting the camera switches, scene change techniques, staging, and the story-telling aspects, I started noticing that everyone was wearing make-up on camera and that every major actor had an assigned and named in the credits make-up artist.

So, me being me, I decided to try to figure out why this was going on without resorting to Google. After several theories that ranged from “plausible” to “completely bizarre,” I finally broke down and sought the wisdom of Google. As it turns out, some of my more plausible theories were pretty close. Therefore, I’d like to share some of my theories with you and explain where I got things right and where I got things wrong.

1) Theory: Make-up hides blemishes which is why everyone’s using it — What I got right: it is indeed used to hide blemishes even on men. Though most men do not wear make-up in day-to-day life, when on camera, it’s generally applied to them to smooth out things that will only be noticed during close-up shots such as uneven coloration or small scars. What I got wrong: the idea that it was done out of the actor’s (or the director’s) sense of vanity or personal aesthetics. It’s got nothing to do with overall good looks and more to do with cameras not being as kind or as clear as eyeballs.

2) Theory: To hide sweaty foreheads — What I got right: having worked in theater growing up, I knew that the stage lights can get very warm. Base and foundations were used to mask the sweat a bit and to keep foreheads, noses, and chins from shining. The same thing applies on camera — the lights are just as hot (if not hotter) and the actors are standing under them for much longer. What I got wrong: nothing. My guess here was spot-on.

3) Theory: To enhance colors — What I got right: I know that women generally wear make-up to bring out their natural colors and beauty (and any girl who slathers on war-paint to try to hide an imperfection quickly learns that she’ll look like a circus clown). Eye shadow, eye liners, and mascara are all selected to bring out the natural color of the irises and draw attention to them. Rouge is used to bring out a healthy-looking blush and glow for the cheeks. Lipstick is used to complement the eyes, cheeks, and to enhance the lips. The same things apply for on-camera make-up but even more so. Since cameras tend to flatten effects and high-definition cameras can even overemphasize natural imperfections, make-up is used to bring out colors in the eyes and lips and to keep the actors from looking sallow and washed out. What I got wrong: the application process for on-camera make-up is a lot more involved than the application for normal or even for stage make-up and takes into account a lot of other factors ranging from time of day, time of year, natural and artificial lighting, lighting gels, and whether the shots will be ranged or close-ups.

4) Theory: Because there’s a shortage of natural zombies walking around — Okay, this one really goes more into masks and make-up for special effects. I’ll confess to an early fascination with the original Planet of the Apes movies and having spent hours studying them trying to figure out just how they made the masks for the chimps, gorillas, and orangutan actors look so convincing (this was in the days before all of the documentaries on this came out). In cases like this, make-up is required to achieve a look that nature did not grant us. For actors who are playing zombies, characters with animalistic features, supernatural characters, or other characters that fall into the “not quite average human” mold, make-up becomes a vital, lengthy, and complicated thing to get them looking the way they need to in order to bring their character to life.

However, in this same vein, actors who are playing certain kinds of characters will often make use of different make-up techniques in order to bring out certain things about the characters. For instance, in The Crow Brandon Lee wore face-paint and make-up we normally consider reserved for the goth crowd. In the Batman films with the Joker, the actor wore clown make-up.

What are some of the things you’ve wondered about actors and on-camera make-up? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to tackle your questions in a future entry!

– da Bird


Photography Is Not A Crime

Photography Is Not A Crime

…though the way some police officers and building security guards act, you’d think it was.

Just last week, a Buzzfeed reporter was in Washington DC photographing some rather strong examples of really terrible architecture. While the greatest example of terrible architecture infests Turtle Bay in New York, Washington DC does have several great examples to warn architectural students of what not to do in designs and reporter/photographer Benny Johnson set out to capture some of the worst ones for his readers.

However, in all but one case, whenever he approached a public building and began photographing it from the sidewalk or other place accessible to the public, police or security began to harass him about taking photos of the buildings. This is not unusual — photographers who are trying to capture specific buildings or specific parts of buildings with their cameras are often harassed. Photographers who have been filming or photographing police in public are also generally subject to harassment, illegal seizure of their equipment, and illegal destruction of their property.

So, what is one to do if one is out and about photographing subjects and security or the police start causing problems? First things first, be certain you checked with the public relations or media relations contact for the building (or agency in the building) ahead of time and got their permission (or at least their “sure though you don’t need permission”) and try to get it in writing (such as an email). Showing that to security guards can sometimes get them to cool it or give them something to tell whatever manager has gotten feathers ruffled over someone standing outside taking photos. If that doesn’t work and you’re asked to move along, just move along and make plans to post about it online later. That’s generally much more effective than trying to stick around and argue your point.

If, however, you’re ordered to hand over your camera or delete certain photos, politely but firmly refuse and ask them what probable cause they have to believe that your camera captured illegal actions in flagrante (one of the few exceptions that allows police to seize a camera and inspect its footage). Generally, if you know your rights and are confident in them, this will get your harasser to leave you alone. However, if security or the police begin forcibly grabbing your equipment from your hands or wrestling you to the ground over it, don’t fight them. Don’t touch them at all if you can avoid it — touching a police officer even if it’s just to shake his hand can be considered “assaulting an officer.”

Once the incident is over, post about it online. There are several websites dedicated to photography rights and to documenting official abuse of them. Find the one you feel most comfortable at and join in the discussion there. If you were seriously injured or if you suffered a loss of very valuable property due to official misconduct, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to sue for damages. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment right to photograph public spaces and officials in public — even police officers — is so well-established that officers cannot claim “good faith” qualified immunity for harassing photographers. What that means is that your lawsuit can and will go ahead and the police officer will not be able to just say “I thought I was correct on the law” to protect himself.

Over all, when out photographing, if someone asks you to stop what you’re doing, politely ask why. Private spaces and private buildings can and often do have reasons to stop photography unless it’s done in a way to ensure that no trade secrets or individuals are visible. However, public and governmental building exteriors enjoy no such protection and can be photographed with impunity. Just be polite, be smart, and pick your battles with officials carefully.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings a close to another interesting week in the world of photography. This week has seen highlights from on-going troubles around the world to fierce storms sweeping the Pacific, from the anniversary of the Lunar landing to the beginning of the 101st Tour de France. On top of all of these big events, photographers and camera makers have been discussing some of the latest updates to photography and photography editing software as well as new cameras and new gear slated to come out in the latter part of 2014.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we will recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


Astronomy and Astrophotography

Astronomy and Astrophotography

Every day we Tweet out the images from NASA’s Astrophoto of the Day as our final tweet. These images are sometimes shots of the night sky from Earth showing things like the Milky Way, planets, the moon, or the auroras (Boreal and Australian), or just the stars. NASA also occasionally posts storm photography taking by storm chasers on Earth or satellites or astronauts orbiting Earth at some distance.

However, for the most part, the vast majority of images that NASA posts are images that only NASA could post. They’re images from the space telescopes that show distant galaxies, nebulae, the planets in more detail than any commercial scope could render, asteroids and comets, the sun and solar flares, and phenomena we didn’t dare dream was possible prior to the start of the Space Age.

So, how is NASA able to get these wondrous photos of things that aren’t just a little bit distant but so distant the amount of space between Here and There is impossible for the mind to conceive?

1) Space telescopes have REALLY big lenses — We’re talking lenses that are measured in meters and yards, not inches or millimeters. No human-wielded camera has the kind of optical power that one of these has (and humans who have a really hard time holding up a camera with a lens taller than they are).

2) Space telescopes have extremely precise lenses — The lenses you get for your camera are very precise but the lenses that NASA has built make your lenses look shoddy. That’s because the lenses for a space telescope have to be almost inhumanly perfect in order for that lens to observe distant lights unseen by the human eye.

3) Space telescopes can stay pointed at one place for a long time — On Earth, we’re subject to rotation. Once every 24 hours, we’re able to focus on (roughly) the same point of the sky. However, in space, telescopes can focus on the same part of the sky for weeks or months, allowing them to do the kind of long exposure photography that just isn’t possible on Earth.

4) Space telescopes work alongside a lot of other cool instruments — The photos we see on APoD aren’t the exact photos the telescope captured. Sometimes they’ve been colorized based on information gleaned from another instrument such as a radiation meter an infrared/ultraviolet imager. The colors are also added by a computer programmed to render them out in colors that the human eye would recognize if the human eye were capable of, you know, functioning as well as a space telescope.

Those are just some of the reasons why space photography (which should be distinct from astrophotography if you ask me) can do so many things that photographers on the planet’s surface can only dream about doing. If you’re an astronomer (or astrophysicist) or just a photographer, we’d love to hear your thoughts on astrophotography in the comments below!

– da Bird


Quick Outdoor Photography Tips

Quick Outdoor Photography Tips

Summer is beginning to wind down and people are hurrying to take their last-minute vacations before school starts back up in August and September. One feature of these end-of-season vacations is that they will generally involve a lot of outdoor photography. So, to ensure that you get the best photos during the brightest part of the year, we have a few quick tips for you to keep in mind when you’re out and about with your camera.

1) If people are involved, don’t have them face into the sun — For some reason, many photographers forget that the eyelids are not completely under voluntary control. If a person is facing a bright light source (and you don’t get much brighter than the Sun), their eyes will squint. They cannot control it. Yelling, threats, pouting, and the like will not convince them to somehow magically gain control over involuntary functions. So, move around a bit so that they are not looking into the sun.

2) Make use of shade and reflectors to control the lighting — Cheap and light-weight light-bouncers or reflectors can easily be made out of cardboard and aluminum foil. These tools can let you reflect or bounce light into a shady area, brightening it enough for photography without blinding any eyeball-possessing subjects. You can also, with a bit of practice and skill, fine-tune your control of the light with several reflectors/bouncers for greater effect.

3) Carry around a fill flash — Sometimes there will be too great a contrast between the sun and the shade and your photo will come out all dark with blotches of overexposed white. A fill flash can help you get around this problem and UV filters can also help cut the sun’s glare and reduce the contrast to more manageable levels.

4) Faster shutter speeds — More sunlight means more light in less time which means that you can speed up the shutter speed in order to help avoid overexposing an image. Also, if you’re capturing action shots of kids playing or sports events, a faster shutter speed is necessary to keep the images sharp instead of blurred.

5) A prime lens is a good ideaPrime lenses give you the best control over fast shutter speed, high ISO, and wide aperture. These three things can be vital in summer outdoor photography so consider investing in a prime lens for your summer photography line-up.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings us to the end of another lovely week in the world of photography. This past week has been full of hands-on with the newest gear from Nikon and Pentax as well as an official apology from Nikon, a lot of great advice from photographers on techniques and subjects ranging from black and white, to weddings, to lenses and gear, to the World Cup, and beyond.

All of these things and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


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

– da Bird


Red Carpet Photography

Red Carpet Photography

One field of photography that is both famous and infamous is celebrity photography. As with every branch of photography, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about capturing images of celebrities — especially if you’re hoping to do it as a field of photography and not just as a fan (most celebrities don’t mind fans asking to take a photo of or with them but it would generally be a good idea to ask when they’re at a public event where photos would be a given instead of asking them when they’re out getting ice cream with their children). So, here a few quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to snapping shots of someone famous.

1) For an event, contact the public relations department of the venue, the production company, and/or the publicity/celebrity managers — This is especially necessary for “red carpet” events like movie premieres, awards ceremonies, public speaking events, or other big news stories. Oftentimes, access to certain parts of the event are restricted to those with press passes only and each venue will have its own rules regarding how those passes are granted and to whom.

2) Don’t show up and think you can shove your way through — If you’ve neglected to get a pass or were denied one, don’t show up and try to shove through the crowds to get your photos. That’s just rude. Also, some venues will tend to prefer to grant access to local journalists or to photographers who have a well-established professional reputation and you can bet they didn’t get that reputation by breaking the rules of the venues and the rules of common courtesy.

3) If you catch a celebrity out in public, be polite — Famous people go out just like everyone else. And, when they’re out grabbing lunch at a shop, picking up milk, going to their office, or taking their kids to the park, they do try to keep a low profile. Generally, if you approach them and politely ask for a moment of their time for a photo, they’ll grant it (or will tell you who to contact if you’re interested in doing a photo shoot). Some of them are remarkably supportive of new photographers and will try to work with you so long as you respect their privacy. So, ask (or if you snap a photo without asking because of a timing issue, approach them soon after and show it to them as a common courtesy, especially if it involves children).

4) Yes, you have a telephoto lens. No, that doesn’t mean you should use it — One of many celebrities’ biggest pet peeves is photographers staking out a location well out of normal eye shot of their property and using a telephoto lens to take pictures of them and their family going about their daily lives at home. Unless you’ve been specifically hired by a private investigative firm, please don’t engage in this paparazzi-style behavior. In some places, it’s even illegal.

5) If you’re asked not to use flash photography, then don’t use flash photography — Many venues forbid it because of the problems with lighting and with distraction it can cause. Some celebrities — notably those who have epilepsy — may ask that flash be avoided or be used in a certain manner so as not to trigger a seizure. Even if you think you know exactly how your flash would affect someone with epilepsy, respect their wishes because chances are, unless you’re a neurologist, they and their doctor probably know more than you.

6) If possible, send a copy of your finished photos to the venue or to your contact prior to publication — This is just a way of being polite and professional. Generally, a publicist won’t call you up and tell you not to publish photos that you’ve selected from your collection and edited for publication. This is just a way of letting them know what to expect and to show off your quality of work (and it can sometimes lead to you getting on a short list of preferred photographers).

7) Never mess with a production company’s camera crew — If, by some chance, you were invited to do photography on a movie or television show set or location, don’t get in the filming crew’s way and don’t disrupt the actors while they’re in character. Try to be as unobtrusive as possible and save your silly or candid shots for when they’re not in the middle of a scene.

– da Bird


The Art of Selfies

The Art of Selfies

With more and more people having smartphones with built-in cameras or low-cost point and shoots, selfies — photos of the person taking the photo — are officially on their way to becoming a “thing.” Most selfies are quickly snapped, involve either just the phone’s owner or the owner and a friend or two, have little in the way of posing or attempts to use composition techniques and may involve the dreaded duckface.

However, selfies can be more than a poorly shot self-portrait. With a bit of creativity, you can show a lot of attitude without having to contort your body or your face.

1) Prop your feet up on the railing and capture the scene in front of you. While technically this isn’t a “selfie” in that your face isn’t in the photo, it is a great way to show something you’re very passionate about (such as sports) without missing anything. It can also make it seem like you’re more laid back and relaxed about the activity even if you’re actually keyed up and excited. All in all, it’s a good way to show two events without any awkward posing.

2) Lift your chin and extend your neck. This will help your face look thinner and will get rid of any excess chins you may have.

3) Wear accessories such as a hat, scarf, funny glasses, etc. So many selfies just have the people or ball caps. Stand out from the crowd and do something a little different.

4) Crop the entire photo down so it’s framing your portrait.

5) Use an unusual masking technique. Get in a tub filled with bubble bath and water. Take a selfie on a rollercoaster. The sky is the limit here so do something original and amazing!

– da Bird