BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Archive for the ‘Photo Ideas’ Category

Photos are made for Printing

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You’ve purchased the best digital camera with the most features available. You’ve read the owner’s manual cover-to-cover and read every single article on this Website. Most importantly, you’ve spent all of your free time taking photos of everything you see.

Great! Now what?

Print your photos of course!

One big problem with digital images is that they tend to stay digital. You didn’t buy that 8-megapixel camera for e-mail and Web posting. You bought it to print – and print big.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based design/photography firm Design215 has a handy chart on its Web site that shows maximum print sizes for various megapixel counts. The chart can be found here.

Although there are many printers available for home use, few give you the same quality and number of product choices as you’ll find from a professional photo print shop. Furthermore, the prices at the pro shops are quite reasonable and the turnaround time is generally fast.

I highly recommend Mpix. The folks at Mpix do a great job printing and offer some of the best products available. I’ve used this shop several times and never had a bad print job. The products and photo finishes offered at Mpix are truly outstanding and the prices are quite reasonable. You should also try out the Metallic prints if you want your photos to really “pop.” The Metallic print is a pearlescent surface that makes colors more vivid and really adds a special touch to the image. The folks at Mpix also offer a variety of photo products from gallery wraps to buttons to photo statuettes. You can even make puzzles and calendars from your photos. All of the products are reasonably priced and are produced very well.

With the wide variety of printing products and really low costs, there’s no excuse for not having a house-full of photos. Show off your hard work and your creative side by hanging your own artwork in your home and office by getting your images off the memory card and onto your walls.

Written by jeremyparce

March 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Photo Ideas

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Unleash Your Creative Potential

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Digital photography can be a fun way to help you unleash your creative potential and learn about art at the same time.

A digital camera is a great tool for a productive, creative and meaningful hobby. A digital camera provides instant feedback and instant gratification. Plus, photography is a hobby that can last a lifetime or even to lead to a career.

The hard part is over – you already own a digital camera! Don’t let your digital camera collect dust while you wait for an “event” to photograph. Create your own special event and spend some time photographing your kids, grandkids, family and friends while learning about digital photography.

Organize a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are fun and even more so with a digital camera. It’s a great event for a lazy day because it will not only get you out of the house for a few hours but it will require you to walk around in the fresh air and actually look at the world in which we live.

Short on scavenger hunt ideas? No problem. Try a few of these:

  • Letters of the Alphabet: This is a great exercise in creativity I use with my own students because it requires them to focus less on the camera and more on the subject. Plus, it’s extremely simple to do. First, participants go out and photograph objects that make letters of the alphabet. For example, a fork in a tree might make a nice letter “Y” or a curve in the sidewalk my make the letter “C.” The ground rules are simple though: No letters on signs or billboards and no arranging objects to make it look like a letter. Only naturally existing “letters” are allowed.
  • Color Wheel: This is another simple and fun project that will not only make you focus on the subject, but will also teach an important lesson about color theory. The color wheel will be the primary tool you’re going to use for this exercise. Using the colors wheel, participants have to find objects in nature that are yellow, red and blue. Be creative! Look past bananas, apples and blueberries and find some really unique items. Once the primary colors have been photographed, go after photos of the Secondary Colors (orange, green and purple) and Tertiary Colors (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green). Once completed, have the participants print the photos and make a montage so they can create their own photographic color wheel.

    Color Wheel from the Website http://realcolorwheel.com/colorwheel.htm

    Color Wheel from the Website http://realcolorwheel.com/colorwheel.htm

  • What Is It?: This very simple guessing game is easy to do and produces some really interesting results. Have the participants pick any object they choose and take two different photos of the same object: one very close up and one that’s at full view. Print the images and show the close up first and have fun guessing what was photographed.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

March 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Photo Ideas

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If You Want to Make Great Images, Look to the Pros

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Those of us who are serious about photography are always looking for new ideas. Sometimes that means spending countless hours shooting, editing, re-shooting and re-editing images until we get what we want.

It’s also important to look at the works of other photographers to see what they’re doing and to get more ideas.

Rolling Stone April 2002 cover featuring Shakira. (Photo Credit: Martin Schoeller via Rolling Stone)

Rolling Stone April 2002 cover featuring Shakira. (Photo Credit: Martin Schoeller via Rolling Stone)

Personally, I think Rolling Stone magazine offers some of the best photographic work on the market. The cover shots on this magazine can be spotted across a packed bookstore and the photos that accompany articles are amazing.

The magazine started in 1967 in San Francisco by Jann Wenner who is still its editor and publisher and music critic Ralph J. Gleason. Rolling Stone’s contributing and staff photographers include Annie Leibovitz, Robert Altman and Mark Seliger to name just a few.

Fortunately, Rolling Stone offers a look at every magazine cover from 1967 to present on its Website.
You owe it to yourself to take some time and look through the covers. I guarantee that after spending a few minutes, you’ll have hundreds of ideas for your next photo shoot.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

March 19, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Look For Different Views

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Too often, beginning photographers lock their bodies into one position and don’t move. They stand, they shoot their subjects standing and they never look for anything out of the ordinary.

That’s too bad. Some nice images can be made by shooting from different angles. Get above your subject and photograph down; get below you subject and photograph up. Move around and try different distances and various points-of-view. You’ll never know what you’ll get until you try.

Don't be afraid to 'break the rules.' Interesting images can be made by trying different angles and different points-of-view. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Don't be afraid to 'break the rules.' Interesting images can be made by trying different angles and different points-of-view. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Some Tips:

  • When photographing children at play, look for the small actions. Zoom in and focus on what they do with their hands or focus solely on their expressions.
  • Shoot tight: Don’t be afraid to zoom in and get tight on the subject.
  • Look at the eyes: Some people are just really expressive with their eyes. Zoom in and get close.
  • Legs and feet: Good action shots can be made from zooming in on the feet and legs, especially in sporting events. Play around with different shutter speeds to show more action through motion blur.
  • Break the rules: Don’t be afraid to break any rule you’ve heard about photography. Breaking the rules can lead to great images.
  • Play with ISO settings: Different ISO settings will give you different looks. The higher the ISO – 800 and above – the more grain. Try it and see if your images look different.

Remember, you can’t learn unless you make tons of mistakes. Trust me, I should have learned a lot by the number of mistakes I’ve made. It’s been said that Thomas Edison was once asked how he felt about failing so many times inventing the light bulb. Allegedly, his reply was, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Whether he said it or not, it’s a good quote to work by. You can’t fail at photography, but you sure can find many ways some techniques don’t work. That’s OK. The good thing about digital photography is you don’t “waste” film. If you don’t like it, delete it and keep trying.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

March 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

Sports Photography: Catching the Action

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Sports photography is tough. In fact, I think it’s one of the more difficult forms of photography because it is a balancing act. A good sports image should balance emotion with action and it’s a tough wire to walk.

If you have an interest in sports photography or are thinking of a career as a photojournalist, then you should spend some time looking at great sports images and studying the photographers who make them.

Try to anticipate the action so you're not always shooting "behind the game." (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Try to anticipate the action so you're not always shooting "behind the game." (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Here’s a few samples you should check out:

  • Bob Martin: Bob Martin is a top sports photographer located in the UK. Martin has photographed the last ten Summer and Winter Olympics and has been published in numerous publications including Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Life Magazine and Stern.
  • Brad Mangin:  California-based photographer Brad Mangin is a regular contributor to Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball Photos. Mangin is also a founding owner of SportsShooter.com.
  • Dave Black:  Dave Black’s images have appeared in Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, and ESPN. He also conducts workshops in sports photography.

Some Simple Tips
For the most part, readers of this Website are amateur photographers and students. With that said, if you’re reading this and are interested in sports photography, it’s probably because you have a kid in sports or are a student wanting to hone you sports shooting techniques. While I’m not an expert in sports photography, I want to share a few basic tips that should help you make better images.

  • Get tight: Don’t be afraid to zoom in tight on the action. Zoom in and catch the up-close action.
  • Use Different Shutter Speeds: Try different shutter speeds to capture images with a different look. The slower the shutter speed, the more motion blur. Sometimes you can make an interesting image with just the right amount of motion blur to give the subject a sense of movement.
  • Look at the Faces: Sports photography isn’t just about the action on the field, it’s about the emotion of the athletes. Try shooting tight on the athlete’s faces and look for images that express emotion.
  • Predict Movement: Try to predict the games actions. Look for key players and watch as they move about the field. Try to guess where the action is going to be so you’re not  “behind the game.”
  • Keep Both Eyes Open: Good action photographers have the ability to keep both eyes open: one eye in the viewfinder and one eye tracking action.
  • Move Around: If possible, move around the field or court for different views. Also, try sitting and kneeling in addition to standing. You can get some interesting photos just by changing your body position.

Don’t Be ‘That Guy’
If you’re on a crowded sideline or court, remember to respect the other photographers who are also there. I want to mention this because of an experience that happened to me a few years back.

I was assigned to photograph an Ohio State football game and the sideline was packed with photographers. I got there early, found a spot that I wanted and set up shop. On my left was a photographer from the local Columbus, Ohio, newspaper and to my right was a photographer on assignment for a national sports magazine.

Everything was working quite well as me and my neighbors shot for the first quarter. During the second quarter, another photographer from a regional newspaper decided he wanted where we were and started pushing, squirming and squeezing his way in between me and the guy on the right. A field marshal noticed what was going on and this photographer was promptly removed from the area.

Don’t be “that guy.” If you happen to find yourself on a crowded sideline, remember to use a little courtesy.

Extra Tip
If you’re a student and happen to get a field pass to photograph your school’s team, let me add a few more tips. First, don’t cheer. You’re there to do a job and not to be a cheerleader. If you want to cheer for your team, stay in the stands or tryout for the cheerleading team. Second, don’t wear school colors. Again, you’re there to do a job. Dress as neutral as possible. Finally, don’t “chimp.” “Chimping” is the act of reviewing every shot you take on the LCD screen the moment you get a chance. Some people will tell you not to chimp because it looks unprofessional. I will give you a practical reason: It will drain your batteries faster than you can imagine. A sporting event is going to be pretty taxing on your batteries, so help conserve batteries and don’t drain the batteries faster by reviewing every single image. A periodic check is OK but don’t become a chimp.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

March 8, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Keep Your Eyes Open and Be Patient

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Since photography is a form of visual communication, it seems a little silly to tell photographers-in-training to keep their eyes open. Once you start concentrating on composition, camera adjustments and the like, however, it’s easy to forgot to just stop and look.

There’s a whole world going on outside of your camera lens and you have to train yourself not to be too myopic. It’s not easy. As you’re learning the steps to go through to make a good image such as making sure you have the correct ISO, white balance, aperture and shutter values selected and making sure a ton of other things that can go wrong, don’t, you simply forget to look.

Digital cameras have made the whole photographic process much easier and has brought photography to even more people, which are all good things. The downside, however, is that people spend less time composing good images and more time “spraying-and-praying,” a term I heard once for someone who just takes a whole lot of pictures and prays one of them turns out OK.

In photography, we measure time in fractions of a second and as any photographer knows, a whole lot goes on in 1/250th of a second. That’s why it’s important to keep your eyes open and learn to anticipate an event.

Patience is also a virtue not lost on photographers. I know I have spent countless hours waiting for something to happen in front of my lens and it seems right when I’m about to give up hope, an opportunity presents itself.

Be patient and keep a lookout for good images to appear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Be patient and keep a lookout for good images to appear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

I use for an example this picture of a little boy riding the lamb. I was sent to cover a fair in Gallup, New Mexico, and it was the last assignment of the day. It was hot and I wanted nothing more than to shoot the assignment and go back to the hotel and in the air condition. Yet, nothing was visually pleasing. It was the typical fairground scene and there were no images that really made me happy. Then I heard over the loudspeaker an announcement asking any children who wanted to participate in the “mutton bustin’” to report to the arena.

I decided I would go and see what “mutton bustin’” was because it at least sounded interesting. Then I saw this little boy with his flame-throwing helmet and I knew the image was going to happen.

An occasional good image may be chalked up to accident or luck. To successfully, time-after-time, make good images isn’t luck or happenstance. It’s training and using your knowledge to work to your advantage.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 25, 2009 at 12:21 am

Give Images Depth: Use the Foreground, Mid-ground and Background

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Although a photograph is two-dimensional, you can create a sense of depth in your photo by creatively using the foreground, mid-ground and background.

You have to think of your image as a canvass and work to make all of the layers in your canvass work to your advantage. You don’t want the layers to compete and you don’t want the viewer to lose the message you’re attempting to convey in the image. You want all of the layers to work in harmony to keep your viewer on message.

Again, like most techniques, this tip won’t work for all images. It’s up to you to play around and see what works best for each situation.

How it Works
The idea for this technique is to show depth, meaning that there is something between the background and foreground or the background and the subject. The way to do this, is it insert another item into the mid-ground.

Look at the motocross photo (Example 1) for a better idea. Motorcycle number 138 is still the subject of the photo but the motocross rider in blue helps separate the subject from the red-rock background. Thus, it provides a sense of depth.

Example 1. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Example 1. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Depth can also provide tension in the image. It can show spatial differences in subjects, thus providing a sense of tension. For example, look at the motorcycle race photo, Example 2. By capturing an image that shows the three motorcycles staggered, it creates a sense of tension. We know, just by looking at the image, there’s a race and these three competitors are very close to one another.

Example 2. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Example 2. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Trying adding some depth to your images by creatively weaving all of the layers together. It will help you make better, more visually-compelling photos.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Tilted Horizons: Maybe, Maybe Not

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Of all the techniques a photographer can use to create a sense of motion in an image, tilted horizons are one of the gray areas. Some people like them; some don’t. Some photos look good with a tilted horizon; some don’t.

Tilted horizons are created by holding the camera off-level. It’s a technique used to give a sense of motion or to throw the viewer off angle. It’s a technique that can easily backfire as some images just really don’t look good tilted no matter what you do.

Sometimes a tilted horizon really expresses a sense of motion. It's a good technique but not applicable to every shot you're going to make. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Sometimes a tilted horizon really expresses a sense of motion. It's a good technique but not applicable to every shot you're going to make. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

But don’t be afraid to try it. You never know when you’re gonna make an image that looks good.

Here’s some tips to follow when shooting a tilted horizon:

  • Don’t make the tilt look accidental. If you’re going to tilt the horizon, it has to demonstrate that you did it on purpose or else it looks like an “oops” moment.
  • Try different degrees of tilt. Move your camera different degrees between true horizontal and true vertical.
  • Make sure the angle you use compliments the directional movement you want to emphasize.
  • Don’t make the tilted image the only photo you take of the subject. The tilted horizon shot should be one of those “let’s see if this works” photos, and not “all of the eggs in one basket” photo.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Photo Tips: The Two-Minute Portrait

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The words, “smile and say cheese!” usually does not mark the beginning of a great portrait. As a beginning/novice photographer, you probably want to make portraits that “look professional” but lack the information on how to do so.
It’s simple if you follow some very basic steps. Here are some tips that will have you making great portraits in less time than you would think.

Step 1: Get the right background

If you want to highlight the subject, don’t allow the background to compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention. Busy, noisy and loud backgrounds distract from the subject unless you’re very experienced and have a great lighting setup and even then it’s a crapshoot.
Keep the background simple. Backgrounds with solid, neutral colors work best. A white wall is ideal but any solid color works.

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Step 2: Get Good Lighting
Unless you’re using a shoe-mounted flash or other pro-quality lighting, find a strong source of natural light. A portrait near a window where there is a good quantity of light is ideal or go outside where natural light is plentiful.
Remember, the sun should be to the side of your subject. If the subject is looking directly into the sun his/her eyes will squint and if the sun is behind the subject, you’ll get an underexposure.
The popup flash on your camera will probably ruin a good portrait with cast shadows so try to avoid using the popup flash.
If you are using a shoe-mounted flash, then try bouncing the flash instead of shooting with the flash pointed directly at the subject.

Step 3: Get Vertical
Horizontally aligned portraits don’t really allow you to utilize your frame the best. Shoot vertical instead so you get more up-and-down room. Even better, shoot the portrait both horizontally and vertically and see for yourself which photo looks better.

Step 4: Get the Right Emotion
Portrait subjects don’t always have to smile. Believe it or not, that’s a tough habit to break for some photographers. Don’t get me wrong, smiling is OK but try to make it less forced. A nice, natural smile will outshine a “Say Cheese!” photo anytime.

Step 5: Get Close
Try to fill the frame with your subject. Try getting close and then work you way back.

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Bonus Tip:
Don’t forget to try the images in both color AND black and white. B&W will help really well if you want to focus more on the subject than the color of clothing or background colors. Plus, B&W gives an image a nice, “classy” feel.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 3:15 am

Expressing Personality Isn’t Just for ‘People Photos’

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If you have a pet, you know how expressive they can be and you know that each one has a unique personality.
Why not express your pet’s personality in a photograph?
You don’t have to have an elaborate set up nor do you need any specialized equipment. All you need is a little time to follow your pet around and a little patience to wait for the right moment.

Newton, our 7 month old Schnoodle, is extremely curious so I thought an image of his nose would help express his curiosity. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Newton, our 7 month old Schnoodle, is extremely curious so I thought an image of his nose would help express his curiosity. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

How To Do It
First, figure out what your pet’s personality is. Is he lazy? Playful? Curious? Well, find a way to illustrate the emotion in a photograph.
The key to a good pet photo is patience. Give him time to settle in and get used to the camera. As soon as your pet is tired of you, he’ll go back to being himself and that’s when you’ll get your best shots.

Remember, compose the shot. Look for interesting ways to illustrate the message about your pet’s personality. Also, try to keep your background simple and use the largest aperture value you have available in order to keep the background from competing with the subject. Also, the largest aperture value will allow you to use the fastest shutter speed available for the aperture setting. This will help reduce blurred images as animals are prone to quick movements.

With a little time and patience, you should get some images that really showcases your four-legged friend’s true colors.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 12:20 am