Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Telling Your Story: How to Create a Powerful Photo Essay

Photography has long been considered a powerful storytelling medium, and the photo essay is simply a more deliberate method of telling a particular story or chronicling a certain event. Photojournalists such as Lauren Greenfield and Deanne Fitzmaurice have captured our imaginations and touched us through powerful photo narrative, and with today’s digital technology and a few storytelling techniques, you can begin experimenting with your own photo essays.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:
  • Clearly Define Your Story: It can be as simple as the first day or school or something more complex such as a controversial topic or current event. Whatever the case may be, make sure you can clearly define it and explain it in one or two sentences. The clarity gleaned from this exercise will help guide you throughout the process.
  • Go a Little Deeper: Consider what aspects of the story you wish to convey. Is it the wonder of seeing a natural wonder for the first time? The excitement of playing in a first little league game? Spend a little time contemplating the topic as you may uncover other aspects of the event to explore.
  • Plan Your Images in Advance: It doesn’t have to be exact, but think about each photograph as a paragraph or chapter of your story. How many images you take is up to you as each story is unique. You may find that ten images portray the event as you wish while others may take fifteen or twenty. There is no right or wrong number; just make sure that each photo serves a particular purpose and plays a role in moving the story forward.
  • Consider How to Share Your Story: Continue to play with your creativity by enlarging the photos and having them mounted or framed as a series. We’d be happy to help you put the final polish on your photo essay. The completed result can become a wonderful conversation piece hanging in your living room or even in a local community center or art gallery!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holiday Challenge: Photographing the Thanksgiving Table
Few things stump the assigned family photographer like trying to shoot a large Thangsiving table populated with people and decorations. The traditional table shot is an important annual ritual, and because of this, it’s worth investing in a little bit of advanced planning time to make sure you’re ready when everyone sits down to celebrate.

Things to Bring:
If at all possible, bring a tripod and a remote trigger for your camera. A tripod will steady the camera and allow you to try different locations and angles to see what works for your particular situation. You will also want your lens cleaning kit nearby to ensure smudges don’t ruin your holiday memories. Better yet—consider our new Promaster HGX filter that has the exclusive REPELLAMAX Element Resistant coating which repeals moisture, dust, and fingerprints. Try the fingerprint test to see how well it works!
During busy holiday visits, you will also find extra memory cards handy. There’s nothing worse than running out of room on your memory card and trying to impulsively decide which images to delete to make room for new shots.

Lighting Considerations:
When photographing a long table with people seated from one end to the other, proper lighting is critical to making sure everyone is evenly covered. If your light source is far away from your subjects, the light will fall off gradually; however, if you are shooting close to your subjects (using a point and shoot camera, for example), the light from the flash will fall off quickly and can make those seated further away from you appear darker (because the light from the flash is diminishing and not giving proper illumination). Here are a few things to try:
  • Check available light around the table. Do you have windows that will provide light and how will this light change when it is time for everyone to sit down for dinner?
  • Ask a couple of guests to ‘model’ for you for a few minutes. Seat one close to the front of the shot and the other at the far end. Play with different angles and with light sources (lamps, overhead, etc) to see which best provide necessary fill light.
  • Try bouncing the flash off the ceiling to see if you can create a more even light stream across the table.

The Kids Table:
This is where the real fun happens! If you have a separate kids table, make them the stars in a few photographs. Try standing on a chair and shooting from the top down while they hold up their water glasses in a kid toast. With kids, playing with angles is particularly important because you want to capture the event from their perspective so shoot at their eye level—as adults, we often tower above them, especially when they’re seated.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Photographing Fantastic Fall Foliage
Fall’s beauty is in full bloom, and photographers across the country are clamoring to capture the amazing turn of seasons. The trees drip with rich colors resembling garnet and jade jewels, the cool air whisks away the remains of a hot summer and the air is filled with anticipation for family-filled holidays. If you’d like to take some of fall’s finest moments and tuck them away to enjoy once the snow falls and the trees’ leaves fade away, here are a few tips:

Shoot Early or Late
Consider shooting during sunrise and sunset hours for the best lighting opportunities as these times can help you capture the richness of color around you. The morning hours may yield the best results because the air will be cleaner and largely free of dust, smog and other airborne particles. Those minute flecks in the air can have an impact on the richness and clarity of your images.

Wait for the Clouds
If you’re trying to capture the vibrancy of autumn leaves and colors, patience pays. Overhead clouds can help retain the depth of color in the foliage whereas direct sunlight is often extremely harsh and can wash out the colors you are trying to capture.

Experiment with a Polarizing Filter
While it may not work in every situation, a polarizing filter can help in those situations where bright sunlight might flatten fall colors. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tools during your session; when you take the time to try new things, you discover additional tricks to add to your photography arsenal.

Capture Contrast
The rainbow of colors fall provides is even more gorgeous when coupled with contrast. A ruby leaf paired with green grass or weathered wood can create a more powerful image than either item photographed alone.

Stay Simple
Part of the beauty of fall can be captured in its simplicity. Zoom in close and focus on a single leaf or a small cluster of them. Spend a few minutes surveying your surroundings to find the perfect subject. It may be something completely unexpected such as an unassuming park bench or a solitary bird.

Rain Reigns
If it happens to rain in the location you wish to photograph, celebrate! The images you can capture after a rain occurs may just take your breath away. The leaves are clean and vibrant and the rain will clear away dust and other items that may get in the way of the perfect shot.

Play with Settings
If your digital camera includes settings to shoot in ‘vivid’ mode or has options to adjust saturation, use those settings to determine if the results are richer than what you would create in your standard automatic mode. You can also experiment with ‘cloudy’ settings on overcast days. Being open to experimentation may bring images that surprise and delight!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Color Temperature Affects Your Photography

Photographers will often comment on an image appearing ‘cool’ or ‘warm’ in tone, which translates into whether the photo has more of a red/yellow cast or a blue cast. It all begins with the color temperature because a lower color temperature will emit a warmer cast while a higher color temperature provides a bluish tint. It is important that you are able to gauge your available light’s temperature and adjust when needed through custom white balance settings. Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin. For example, tungsten studio lights measure at 3,200K while a sunny day and clear sky will register at approximately 6,000K. By contrast, a heavily overcast sky reads at close to 10,000K, which explains the bluer tint to images as it is higher on the temperature scale.

The current generation of digital cameras does a pretty good job of using automatic settings for white balance, but this gets more difficult in conditions where there is less light available. If you’re in a situation where the lighting leaves something to be desired, creating a custom white balance for a particular location to be used at that time may yield far superior results.

If you only learn a few key features on your DLSR, creating a custom white balance is one that will come in handy in numerous situations. If you’re not sure how to do this, give us a call or bring your camera into the store—we’d be happy to help you. You won’t believe the difference in your photography!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Giving Your Photos a Vintage Feel

Sometimes an image creates a far more powerful response when it has been converted to black and white or edited to create a vintage effect. If you’d like to experiment with this technique, all you need is an image editing program. Many of today’s options have a variety of tools for creating this effect.

In addition to converting an image to black and white, you can also choose the sepia option, which will add more of a yellowish-brown cast to the image. You can also experiment with the midtones of the image to soften the contrast in the photograph. The vignette tool is very popular for adding a vintage feel because it creates a softening effect and gradually takes the image to shades of white around the edges. Other tools such as dodge, burn and sponge can also help you ‘antique’ an existing photograph.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tips for Photographing Fireworks

It’s time to get ready for Fourth of July celebrations and the amazing fireworks show that accompany the barbeques and other events. Want to get some amazing images? You can capture some spectacular scenes if you take a few tips with you before you begin shooting.
Scout Your Spot: If at all possible, get the event early and take a look around. See if you can get an unobstructed view or if you can position yourself where other onlookers’ heads won’t be in the way.

Try a Tripod:
With the combination of low light and fast action (the fireworks), a steady surface can greatly aid in helping you record that perfect image.
Add a Remote Release: A remote release can free you up to focus on your images and keep your eye on the sky. They are inexpensive and many photographers find them to be an invaluable accessory.

Slow Your Shutter Speed:
A long exposure often works best with fireworks since they are moving events and contain bright light. Experiment with keeping the shutter open long but don’t overdo it because you can overexpose the image. Alternate between using a burst mode to capture the action as well as holding the shutter open (by pressing the button half-way at the beginning of the action and continue holding it down until the fireworks burst is complete) in a single shot. Each location and event has unique circumstances so keep experimenting as you go along until you find the effect that works for you.

Forget the Flash:
Your flash can be more of a hindrance in this case because it may signal to your camera that you need a shorter exposure time. The flash only helps when your object is a few feet away, so in this case, even though it’s dark, keep the flash turned off.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Picture Dictionary- Histogram:
Ever wonder what that black and white graph is that sometimes shows up on your camera’s LCD screen? It’s called a histogram, and it’s essentially a representation of the contrast and dynamic range in each image. The histogram shows a range of 0-255 with the value of zero being black and white valued at 255. You’ll find the ‘true white’ illustrated at the far right of the graph and the ‘true black’ on the far left. A well-exposed image will show points close to both ends.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Introduction to High Dynamic Range Photography by Richmond Camera
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is becoming increasingly popular now that digital cameras are the norm. The technique itself, however, was actually created by Charles Wyckoff in the 1930s. HDR refers to a technique that allows an image to display a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of the photograph. The intention is to accurately portray the entire range of luminance and do so through a series of bracketed exposures of the same scene so that the result is a stunning display of lighting range.

Many of today’s DSLR cameras have an Auto Exposure Bracketing feature, which will come in handy as you begin experimenting with this technique. The exposure bracketing is simply a way of varying the brightness of the exposure over several sequential frames. Most cameras offer a series of at least three frames while others offer upwards of eleven or more. If you aren’t sure how to set the AEB feature on your camera, check the manual or do an online search for your camera model +AEB. The result should pop up.

You will then need to select your exposure values, which indicate the variance in shutter speed and aperture combinations used to create each image. For maximum effect, choose one complete stop so that you will get a broad range of highlights, shadows and midtones. You’ll also want to set your camera in continuous shooting mode and use the timer.

It’s best to use a tripod for this technique in order to ensure there is no movement between shots as you will be combining multiple images in an editing program later.
Once you’ve finished shooting, you should have a series of images that are underexposed, properly exposed and overexposed. You will then import these images into an image editing program such as Photoshop®, Photomatix or FDR Tools (the latter two being programs specifically designed for creating HDR images).

HDR photography is a fantastic way to play with the more artistic aspects of the craft and allow you to create an image with such variance that it truly stands out among the rest of the images in your portfolio. You may find yourself answering the question, “How did you DO that?” over and over again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring in Bloom: Wildflower Photography by Richmond Camera
May is the perfect time for taking pictures of wildflowers and nature in full bloom. The rains of April have quenched the lands and helped create the beauty you now wish to capture.

Evaluate the Angles:
Don’t rush to shoot the first pretty flower that strikes your fancy. Study it from a variety of angles and evaluate your options looking through your lens. Move about, experiment with top shots, side views, low points and off-center options. The beauty of wildflowers is multifaceted, and your location and vantage point can illustrate those variances.

Clue in on Contrasts:
Look for contrasts in color and texture when surveying your wildflower patch. For example, see if you can incorporate both the bright purple blooms with a nearby yellow bud, or include a smooth petal with a textured leaf. You may need to experiment with angles and positioning to include contrast but the end result will be well worth the effort!

Don’t Overdo It:
When presented with a large field of flowers, it’s tempting to shoot a broad image to try to encompass the entire area but these images often fall short of showing the appropriate scale. Feel free to take a few in this manner but then start focusing on a key flower or bloom and experiment with your depth of field to see if you can also include part of the vast floral background.

Wind and Light:
Some flowers need the warmth of the sun to open, so consider shooting in the morning hours. Wind can also be an obstacle in getting great wildflower photos, so the mornings are often better as wind tends to pick up later in the day. If bright sunlight or reflections are becoming an issue, consider using a skylight or UV filter to combat the harshness of the sun.

Watch it on the Roadside:
Our nation’s highways are bringing us some of the most fantastic wildflower eye candy this season. For example, in Texas, IH-10 seems to be paved with bluebonnets for miles on end. These attractions lure countless admirers to pull over to take photographs, but please take extra care when doing this. Survey your area to find a safe spot to park and make sure you’re shooting far enough away from traffic so as not to be a distraction or cause an accident.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Panasonic GF-1

I've spent the last four days trying out the newest Panasonic G series, the GF-1. While it shares many features with its other "G"
siblings, this model is the stand out in my estimation.

What I liked: While small, it handles very nicely, with a very slight protruding grip on the right side. It feels very solid, a well machined tool.

I tried it with the 20mm/1.7 lens and this would always be my choice, though there is a 14-45mm zoom also available in kit form. The JPEGs are very nice but this is a camera for someone who likes RAW. The depth and color of the RAW image was beautiful. I needed to use the supplied Silkypik converter as my Mac does not, as yet, read the G's raw format.
Up to 800 ISO, the G is the equal to any camera in the price range, beyond that, it does give up some noise control, but it is a fine grain that I prefer to some of the overly "cooked" high ISO you often see in other brands. Its AF is definitely as good as the competition, though how they got the Contrast AF to focus this fast is a mystery.

Though I only tried it once, the video mode is clearly superior to that of the Nikon 5000 and Canon T1i. This system was designed for video capability and it shows.

What could have been better: We didn't have the eye-level viewer at the time of my test and I really would prefer this to holding the camera in front of my face. Not everyone will feel the same, but having the option is valuable. There were also many controls located deep in menus, and I didn't have the time to figure them all out. The built in flash only has a guide # of 6, so has little power. It's better than no flash, but has limited usefulness.

Would I want one? Yes, I would. It reminds me of the Leica CL I've carried over the years with a 40/2 and 90/2.8 lens. In fact, I used the same case to carry the GF-1 as I use for the CL.
With the adapters coming that will allow using M series, as well as other brands of lenses, this is a way to connect to many wonderful lenses of the past.

By: Bill Herbert (Richmond Camera Charlottesville)