Tuesday, 21 of October of 2014

6 Tips for Outback Photography

6 Tips for Outback Photography

Though the days are growing shorter and the weather growing colder here in the Northern Hemisphere and many people are traveling to capture images of the fall foliage changing colors, things are exactly the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere and many there are getting ready to start their spring photography. Oddly enough, one of the favored places to head for photography in the southern half of the globe is the Australian Outback and, with spring blooming Down Under, this is a great time to travel down there and catch the changing of the seasons in the wilds! To help anyone who is interested in doing that, we have a few tips on how to really capture the spirit of the Australian Outback.

1) Book plenty of time in advance — The Outback is very, very large. Parts of it are also inaccessible. Make sure you map out the areas you want to visit ahead of time and know where you will not be able or allowed to go. Even with much of it being inaccessible, there is still plenty to photograph so plan your itinerary accordingly.

2) Don’t shoo people out of the way all the time — Some of the sites you’ll see in the Outback are mind-bogglingly ginormous. If there are people in the frame, even if they’re not the subject of the photo, they can help to provide a sense of scale and add a dimension of depth to the photo.

3) Speaking of depth… — One of the biggest problems in landscape photography is that a site will look wonderful to the Mark I Human Eyeball but when you take a photo of it, the photo will come out looking very flat. Don’t be afraid of letting some parts of your photo come out a little blurry to add layers and depth to the photo. Additionally, don’t always go for the straight-on shot. Try to find a different angle, some unique view, to take your photo from. Just don’t wander too far off the beaten path and don’t do anything that might shorten your lifespan!

4) Get to know the locals — For most of us, Australia is a far, distant land. Many of us might only make one trip there in our lives which is why we should book plenty of time for our trips. Additionally, there are many great sights to see that aren’t part of any official tour guide. Take the time to hang out at the local pubs and taverns and get to know some of the people from the area. They can always point you in the direction of some interesting sights!

5) Don’t be afraid to use some artificial light — Some of the trees and plants just off the side of the roadways in Australia are very different than anything you’ll see outside of Australia and, during your time there, you might start taking them as commonplace. Stop the car occasionally and get out and get some shots of these common but unique-to-Australia flora. Use a flashlight or bouncer to highlight particular details. Also, try to do some dawn photography — the way that the sunrise looks in Australia can be absolutely stunning!

6) The Southern Sky and Lights are very different — The constellations of the night sky are completely different in the southern parts of the Earth and the auroras are beautiful and more accessible than they are in the northern parts of the globe. Take some time to check them out!

If you ever get the chance to experience spring in Australia, take it and be sure to take your camera with you!

– da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Adam Pretty

Profiles in Photography: Adam Pretty

This week’s Profiles in Photography takes us Down Under with sports photographer Adam Pretty. Pretty got his start in photography with The Sydney Morning Herald where he worked as a news photographer, moving into sports photography as part of that in 1997. In 1998, Pretty joined Getty Images as one of their sports photographers for many years before turning his focus on advertising photography for popular sports brands in 2007. His current clients include Adidas, Nike, L’Oreal, BMW, General Motors, Li Ning, Anta, Amway, and Wrigleys. During his stint as a sports photographer, he traveled widely and captured images of the Summer Olympics in 2000, 2004, and 2012 as well as the Winter Olympics in 2002. He has lived and worked in Australia, Europe, China, and currently resides in Japan where he works on both sports and advertising photography, expanding his portfolio as well as his horizons.

Though he no longer focuses on sports photography solely, Pretty is one of the most well-known and award-winning sports photographers of recent years. His shots of athletes in the midst of competing at the Olympics have graced the covers of many magazines and his individual and team portraits often focus on getting the action inherent in the sport itself. He makes excellent use of lighting to bring out the colors in team uniforms and the courts. When photographing swimmers, he frequently gets in and under the water, using natural and artificial lighting to give an impression of both depth and energy. Finally, he uses the athletes themselves, posing them in ways that make them look intimidating and vital instead of relying on the more tried-and-true methods of group line-ups.

Pretty’s photography style is definitely unique and sets him apart from other sports photographers. His passion for both sports and photography is clear in every photo he publishes. It is no wonder that he has been the recipient of so many prestigious awards over the course of his career.

– da Bird


5 Tips for Student Photography: Capturing Your Club

5 Tips for Student Photography: Capturing Your Club

With school back in session and the colors of fall washing across nature, this is the time of year that many school clubs are organizing events and festivals for Halloween and the harvest season. That means that, with the routine business of getting the new year started out of the way, this is a great time for student photographers and for yearbook photographers to get shots of clubs in action. To help with that, we have a few great tips on how to get the best and most original photos you can to spice up your yearbook instead of just relying on the bland “here’s all of us sitting on the bleachers” photos that dominate most club photo sections.

1) Use your club’s theme — If you’re in the Latin club, 4H, Future Teachers of America, or something else, try to get together with your fellow club members and make the central theme of your club part of the photo. Latin/Junior Classical League groups could try having their members bring white sheets and drape them around their clothes as togas. 4H members could dress in farming gear. Honor Society members could try finding mortarboards and gowns. Debate Club members could dress as judges (powdered wigs optional but very cool). The sky is the limit — be creative and have fun with it!

2) Fluorescent lights are terrible — Most school classrooms and gyms are well lit…just not for photography. Try to rig sheets and bouncers to soften the harsh overhead lights. That will help with making your photos much better.

3) Why so serious? — Try to get everyone to use natural expressions instead of forcing everyone to smile or scowl. Also, see if you can have the group pose in an arrangement that they have chosen instead of just sitting on bleachers or standing in a huddle.

4) Ask if the photos will be printed in color or black and white — The final prints being in color or in black and white will have a huge impact on how the photo shoot itself should be set up. Ask in advance and use that to make the session work to your club’s advantage!

5) Candid photos are welcome; don’t be afraid to edit them! — Throughout the year, you’ll have the chance to get candid photos of your clubs in action at different school and scholastic events. Since candid photos tend to have no real pre-planning, however, and you won’t generally carry around light bouncers or drapes with you, don’t be afraid to run these photos through an editing program to remove red eyes or light blotches on skin. Doing this will also give you experience in photo editing which can be a very useful skill regardless of what you choose as a career.

School clubs are great ways to get involved in your social groups and to make new friends and lasting memories. Every club will have its photo, generally, and every club should be involved in working to make their photos something that reflects the spirit of the members and the purpose of the organization itself.

– da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Edward Burtynsky

This week’s Profiles in Photography focuses on Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky is best known for his sweeping views of industrial landscapes including beaches, mines, quarries, and scrap piles. His work has been exhibited around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale. He is frequently cited as one of the top modern photographers in the world and his work is as inspiring as some of the great photographers from history such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, both of whom Burtynsky claims as influences on his own work.

Burtynsky grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario where his father worked in a General Motors plant. In the 1970s, Edward’s father made a purchase that would change his son’s life. He bought a darkroom, cameras, instruction manuals, and developing chemicals from the widow of an amateur photographer. Together with his sister, the three of them soon learned how to make black and white photographs and began experimenting with different photography and darkroom techniques. Edward’s sister started a small business as a portrait photographer while Edward himself began taking night classes in photography, eventually entering the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.

Burtynsky’s technique involves using a large format field camera to take extremely large photos of a landscape or vista. He also prefers an aerial perspective, seeking to find a high vantage point where he can get a broad, yet detailed, view of the subject of his photo. One wonders if, with the growing popularity of drone photography gear, Burtynsky will begin using such devices in his own work.

Should ever get the chance to see one of his exhibits, it is well worth the effort. Edward Burtynsky truly is one of the great artistic and landscape photographers of the modern era.

– da Bird


5 Tips for Halloween Photography

Halloween is just around the corner and that means that everyone is trying to out-spook everyone else in coming up with the greatest yard decorations, pranks in the garage, and set-up for trick-or-treaters. It also means that just about every child is eagerly anticipating getting to put on a costume and go out after dark in search of candy and more. Halloween is a very special time for kids and it’s also a great time for photography. Follow our tips below to ensure that this Halloween’s photos are precious memories instead of pesky annoyances!

1) Don’t delay the trick-or-treating — Kids get excited about getting in their costumes and getting out there to get as much candy as they can carry. So, try to take the photos of them in their costumes a day or two before Halloween. Otherwise, they’re going to be rebellious and impatient if you wait until the day itself.

2) Let the kids set the pose — Your kids will have definite ideas about what they should be doing to show off the full effect of their costume. Let them decide on the general poses they want to do and (if you have more than one child), let them argue it out and just help them to compromise for multiple scene set-ups. Suggest changes and explain them but, overall, let your kids participate in the set-up as much as you can.

3) Tone the lights down — This is especially true for costumes that have plastic masks. The plastic can reflect the light badly, washing out the entire photo. Use linens and other light-colored but semi-transparent fabrics to soften the light from lamps. Make tin-foil light bouncers to help redirect other lighting sources.

4) Be ready to get in the frame yourself — This means have a tripod and a means of checking and remotely taking the photo. Your kids may want you to be involved in whatever scene they’re creating. As advised in #2, let them set the stage and go along with it, within reason.

5) Show the triumphant trick-or-treaters — On Halloween itself, once your children are back from making their rounds, talk them into taking a few photos showing off the candy and other goodies they’ve gotten. These will be some of the best “taken on the day of” Halloween photos you can get since the kids will be happy. Again, let them set up the poses a bit and then have fun!

Halloween is a great kid’s holiday — growing up, it was easily my favorite holiday. Don’t make getting photos of your kids in costume a hassle this Halloween. Take some of our advice and make great memories instead of grumpy ones. Also, share your photos with us and let us know if you have any further questions or suggestions 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 one has been filled with momentous events around the world. There were the protests in Hong Kong, the eruption of a volcano in Japan, Ebola cases in the United States, and more major stories for photojournalists to be out capturing (safely, we hope!). Atop all that, photographers have been offering advice for newbies and for those who are trying to get into nature, wildlife, and seasonal photography. We’ve been giving advice for families who have school-aged children and want to get the best school photos they can.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. For those of you who aren’t following us on Twitter, we’ll recap the highlights below!


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

– da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Michael Muller

Profiles in Photography: Michael Muller

This week we’re profiling American celebrity portrait photographer Michael Muller. Muller’s work includes portraits of Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Downey Jr., Shepard Fairey, Hugh Jackman, and Alec Baldwin. He’s also known for his underwater shark photography involving close-ups of some of nature’s deadliest creatures.

Muller differentiates himself from other celebrity photographers by his unique approach to photographing them. Instead of just relying on actors to come into his studio for pre-arranged appointments or trying to mimic a scene or set from a film, Muller goes on set and captures the actors while they’re in character and in costume. He works using mostly quick and easy poses that would fit naturally with the character the actor is currently portraying. Muller strives to be as quick as possible when doing these shots so that he does not disrupt filming.

In his underwater photography, Muller has spent much time and money developing a patented lighting rig that he can take with him in order to capture the fatal beauty of some of nature’s aquatic wildlife. He prefers to dive without a cage, relying on his metallic shark-suit to keep him safe while he photographs these oceanic predators up-close and personally.

In recent days, Muller has teamed up with his friend and fellow photographer Patrick Hoelck to launch the PhotoSchool project which is aimed at introducing people to the world of photography and helping them to advance in the craft. More information is available at his website so head over there and learn more about Michael Muller, his work, and his passion!

– da Bird

Photos by: Michael Muller


How To Photograph a Solar Eclipse

How To Photograph a Solar Eclipse

October 23 will play host to a partial solar eclipse visible through most of North America. Keep an eye on your local news and check your calendar to see exactly when this event will occur for you. And, for the photographers out there who want to capture this event, there’s still time to make the necessary preparations to ensure that your eyes and your camera survive directly looking into the sun.

1) Pick the right lens — The longer the focal point on the lens, the more you’ll be able to capture. Remember that the sun is really far away (compared to anything on Earth) so you’ll want something that can focus on a very distant object and zoom in on it.

2) Know your exposure — Solar eclipses require very different exposure settings than other events. Check this chart to see what settings you’ll want to use in order to capture the eclipse in all of its stages.

3) Get a tripod — For any kind of astrophotography, you’ll want a tripod to prevent camera shake. So, invest in a good one that you can adjust easily and practice using it before the eclipse. Waiting until the last minute to test new gear is a bad idea.

4) Get a Solar filter — It’s easy to mess up the optics, lenses, and chips in your camera if you don’t get a special solar filter designed for to protect your equipment for this kind of photography. Do the same if you’re planning to observe through a telescope or binoculars.

5) Get #14 welders glass — These glasses can protect your eyes for direct observation. Don’t use them and then look through a telescope or camera, though. And don’t use sunglasses thinking they’ll protect you — sunglasses will actually make it worse as your pupils will widen to allow in more light to compensate for the darkened lenses.

Solar eclipses are wonderful events and very memorable. I still remember watching my first solar eclipse as a kid, using a cereal box as a pinhole camera so I could “watch” it safely. With a few simple precautions, you can not only watch a solar eclipse, you can record it for posterity as well!

– da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Jim Richardson

This week our profiles in photography is focusing on well-known landscape photographer Jim Richardson. Jim Richardson has been a photographer with National Geographic and TRAVELER magazines for many years and has traveled far and wide to capture the story of the changes humanity brings to the land it lives upon — some good, some bad. However, when he is at home, he is still working, producing black-and-white photos of daily life in rural Kansas.

The strict rules that National Geographic places on its photographer regarding editing images have given Richardson’s photographs a solid realism that is often lacking in more modern landscape photography which relies heavily on HDR, panoramic images, and other digital techniques that cannot be replicated in a darkroom environment. His portfolio shows that he is an extremely talented photographer who is able to capture the majesty of nature without having to embellish anything. I particularly love the image of the Storr on the Isle of Skye. Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and Richardson captures it well.

Landscape photography is not something that is easy to do. It takes patience, attention to detail, and great knowledge of your gear in order to photograph Mother Nature in her wild glory. Jim Richardson is one of the best landscape photographers of our era and we hope to see him continue to pursue his passion for many years yet to come.

– da Bird


10 Tips for Senior Yearbook Portrait Photography

With school back in session, photo days are on the schedule for many students and their families. Earlier, we discussed ways to improve the quality of yearbook photos. Today, we’d like to focus on a special sub-genre of yearbook photography: the Senior Portrait.

Senior Portraits are probably the most unique yearbook photos taken. Generally, throughout the US, seniors are given a particular appointment with a special photographer who will be in charge of senior portraits only at that time. Therefore, senior photos usually do not occur during the same time frame as the other yearbook photos. They may be scheduled during the summer break with the in-coming seniors being photographed one-by-one then. They may be scheduled during the latter part of the fall semester or during the spring semester. Also, these sessions run much differently than normal yearbook photo sessions and will generally come with instruction packets that request the student bring or wear certain clothing or avoid certain clothing. Pay attention to these as the photographer is not sending this packet just to be a control freak. Beyond that, follow our tips below to get the best senior photos you can.

1) Check the previous yearbook senior photos – The photos that run in the yearbook for the senior class almost always keep the same style. For most schools, this means that the backdrop will be a single-toned neutral or dark color (generally grey or black) and that the young men will all wear tuxedo shirts, bow ties, and black jackets. The young women will all appear to be wearing a gown that is off-the-shoulder. Check the style of the classes before yours and be prepared for that.

2) Prepare for the formal attire photo – Men will need to bring a plain white dress shirt that is appropriate for a tuxedo. Women will need to bring a bra that is either strapless or one where the straps can be slipped down beneath the draping without causing a wardrobe malfunction.

3) Ladies, bring your mother, sister, or a good female friend – The ladies’ photos do not actually require them to wear a dress. Instead, they will be given a drape of cloth and sent to the restroom to put it on. It will need to go over their arms and generally closes in the back with clothes pins or another simple (yet adjustable) closing mechanism. Drape the cloth over your chest so that it covers everything decently, adjust your bra straps as needed, and then have someone else pull it over your arms and snug behind you to pin it. Unless you have magical powers, you are not going to be able to do this on your own.

4) Know the hairstyle you’ll be using – Unless the session indicates that there will be time for multiple wardrobe changes and hairstyle changes, plan to use the same hairstyle in all of the photos. If you have an appointment that will allow you to visit a stylist in advance, feel free to do that. Otherwise, make certain that you can not only get your hair styled the way you want but that you can fix it quickly on your own or with whoever you have helping you.

5) Arrive at least ten minutes early – This will give you time to prepare for the formal photo (it’s usually the first shot that is done) and to make any last-minute fixes to your hair or make-up. Speaking of which…

6) Be conservative with the make-up – Go easy on the toner, base/foundation, and powder. Use an eyeshadow that compliments your irises (this is frequently the color that is opposite your eye color on a color wheel). Short hand is: use honey/gold/orange if you have blue eyes, lilac/lavender/light purple for green eyes, blue/cyan/pink for brown eyes (variable depending on the tint), etc. Keep your blush/rouge under control and looking like a healthy glow and choose a shade of lipstick that complements your entire face. If you normally wear flashy make-up or apply your make-up with a trowel, this is the time to visit a professional and learn a lighter, more mature touch.

7) Practice your expression – Don’t smile if you don’t feel like it. However, don’t scowl or try to look overly dramatic. A neutral expression or a small smile is fine so long as it doesn’t look plastered on. My own senior portrait has my most natural expression which is one of quiet daydreaming and I’m happier with it than with the version where the photographer demanded I smile (I have trouble faking emotion).

8) For the informal shots, bring clothes that are complimentary but comfortable – Informal shots can be done indoors or outdoors and will have a variety of backdrops, props, and settings. Bring something that goes well just about anywhere but that is comfortable enough for you to sit, squat, kneel, or stand in.

9) Get information on retakes – Some people will not be happy with their first set of senior photos. Be sure that you get the information for retakes in case you wind up needing it.

10) Parents, back off a bit. Students, listen to your parents – Senior photos are the last school photos you’ll be getting. By the time a child has become a senior in high school, they are generally old enough to have a fairly large say in what they’ll wear and how they’ll look. So, don’t force the issue too much, parents. That said, students, this is the last school photo you’ll be using. This will be the one that hangs on your parents’ wall. It’s up there with the photos from your wedding. Don’t use this as the photo to launch your full-out rebellion against parental authority. Trust me – you will regret doing that.

What other advice would you offer to seniors getting ready for their portraits? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird