BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘lesson

Technical Image Press Association honors Sigma Corporation’s new 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

Sigma Corporation of America has received the award of Best Entry Level Lens by Technical Image Press Association for its newly available 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM.

The 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM, extended range zoom lens, currently available for Nikon and Canon mounts, incorporates Sigma’s exclusive technology, the Hybrid Optical Stabilizer, an anti-shake system providing image stabilization in both the camera body and the viewfinder. In addition to the unique OS system, this DC lens is a dedicated digital SLR camera lens suited for APS-C format, and incorporates Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) functionality to ensure quiet and high speed auto focus (AF).

“Sigma’s new 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens provides all levels of photographers with smooth zoom action, best-in-class image quality, and innovative OS technology,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, general manager of Sigma Corporation of America. “We’re thrilled that the Technical Image Press Association has recognized our continued commitment to providing our customers with excellent products and unparalleled quality, at reasonable prices.”

The 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM was selected for the TIPA award by a panel of 25 editors of leading European photography publications. Judges cited the lens’ exclusive optical stabilization (OS) system, along with four Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements and three aspheric elements as key factors in their decision process, all of which they said ensure “high quality” results.

Each year, TIPA editors vote for the best photo and imaging products introduced in Europe during the previous 12 months. The judges consider innovation, the use of leading-edge technology, design and ergonomics, ease-of-use, and the price/performance ratio while making their decisions.

The lens has 13.8 times zoom ratio capabilities, exclusive to digital SLR, making it ideal for close-up photography. In addition, an inner focusing system eliminates front lens rotation, making it suitable for use with circular polarizing filters and the supplied petal-type hood.

The 18-250 F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM is currently available for Nikon and Canon mounts for $800 MSRP in a number of stores nationwide. Within the next few months, the lens will be also be available in Sigma, as well as Sony and Pentax mounts, the first-ever optically stabilized lens offered for those manufacturers’ digital cameras.

Enjoy the Everyday with Photography

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For all of you wandering about your home looking for photographic subjects take note: Trying photographing the everyday things in your life in a new way. Photographic subjects are everywhere. It just takes a little time and a lot of imagination to cull them out and make them shine.

Here are a few tips to help you out when there’s “nothing to shoot:”

  • Look to the Lawn: If you have a lawn, especially a landscaped one, then you may not have to go any further than your own property. Since spring has sprung in many places, now is a great opportunity to get outside and shoot. Flowers, insects, and decorative lawn ornaments make for nice subjects. Try different things, too. Trying getting close or shooting from different levels. Try arranging small compositions. Be creative!

    Try photographing flowers in black-and-white so you can focus on texture. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Try photographing flowers in black-and-white so you can focus on texture. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Four-legged Friends: Pets always make good subjects. Sometimes they can be a little difficult but if you just sit down, eventually they will lose interest in you and your camera and go back to doing what they do best.

    Newton, my into everything Schnoodle, stops for a quick pose before destroying a tulip. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Newton, my into everything Schnoodle, stops for a quick pose before destroying a tulip. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Clothing: Clothes? Sure. Why not? There are plenty of people who make a GOOD living photographing clothes and fashion so why not practice fashion photography yourself? If you have a willing model, it’s even better but you can still photograph clothing without a person. Try playing with lights and colors.

    Try photographing all types of clothes and accesories. Another tip: Hats make interesting subjects. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Try photographing all types of clothes and accesories. Another tip: Hats make interesting subjects. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Musical Instruments: Have a piano or guitar around the house? If so, get creative and photograph someone playing. Better yet, make the instrument the subject and try to arrange it in creative ways.
  • Figurines: Still life images of figurines is especially interesting if you own a macro lens. Get close and make little portraits out of your little collectibles.

    Focus on the small things ... a figurine makes for an interesting photo. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Focus on the small things ... a figurine makes for an interesting photo. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • In the Kitchen: Look for items laying around in the kitchen. Try food photography or product photography. Try arranging little scenes and see what happens.

No matter what you may thing, there’s always an opportunity to hone your photographic skills and make images. It just takes a little creativity and some time. You never know … you might have some wall art just waiting.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Sports Photography Isn’t Always About the Action

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Sports photography seems to be one of the more frequent topics I am asked about and for good reason. Many parents have children who participate in athletics and being active parents, they want to capture their child’s activities in photographs.

While lacking much action, this photo would be acceptable to hang on any wall or e-mail to relatives. Without the proper gear, sports photography - especially capturing action - is tough. So, work within the limits of your gear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

While lacking much action, this photo would be acceptable to hang on any wall or e-mail to relatives. Without the proper gear, sports photography - especially capturing action - is tough. So, work within the limits of your gear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Unfortunately, these parents lack the photographic equipment (a basic sports photography setup for pros would set you back more than $10,000 not to mention the experience and training it takes to make good sports images) so these parent/photographers become discouraged because the images they have are not the Sports Illustrated-quality images they envisioned.

Sometimes the quiet moments of sports helps express emotion without the action. This photo was taken at a track & field event in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Sometimes the quiet moments of sports helps express emotion without the action. This photo was taken at a track & field event in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

There are some options. First, I guess you could buy the equipment, enroll in some classes and start working hard to become good at sports photography. The second option is to hire a photographer to photograph your child’s sporting events – it’s not cheap, but you should get some high-quality results or, finally, you can do yourself but within the limits of your current gear.

If you lack a telephoto lens and a camera that will capture images at a high frames-per-second rate (above 5 fps would be best) there are still things you can do to help capture images worthy of hanging on the walls or e-mailing relatives.

Predicting Action
First, you can attempt to predict the action. If you know where the subject is going to be you can prefocus on that area and make an image when the player/subject enters the frame. It takes a lot of trial-and-error but it is possible. If you’re using a DSLR or an extremely high-end point-and-shoot camera, this may be a good technique to try.

Waiting for Breaks in the Action
You can make good images during breaks in the action. For instance, when the coach is talking to players, during a water break or when there’s a timeout. Let me advise this, however. If a player is injured, it’s common courtesy among photographers to put down the camera.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Candid Moments Can Make Lasting Memories

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There are times when all the posing in the world just doesn’t make a photo pop. You try every trick in the book and nada – it just ain’t working.
So, what do you do? Wait.

I had tried several things to get a good image of this New Mexico JROTC group but nothing worked. So, I just moved away from them - they were too busy paying attention to me - and just waited. When I no longer held their attention, they went about being themselves and it shows through their facial expressions. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

I had tried several things to get a good image of this New Mexico JROTC group but nothing worked. So, I just moved away from them - they were too busy paying attention to me - and just waited. When I no longer held their attention, they went about being themselves and it shows through their facial expressions. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Patience seems to be one of the hardest things to teach new photographers. Most of them want to shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot some more (spray-and-pray is what we call it). Unfortunately, when the camera is constantly clicking, the subject or subjects get more tense and less likely to allow their true selves to shine through.

If you can’t get a posed photograph to work, there’s nothing wrong with just letting the subject go back to doing whatever it is they were doing before and you – the photographer – sitting there with the camera ready to capture a candid moment.

Candid photos does not mean bad photos. It just means that the subject wasn’t posed and just being themselves. Candid images can be made well and can add more depth to an image than any posed photograph ever could.

Here’s some tips on capturing good candid photos

Stay out of the way – just blend into the environment and let the subjects do what they do naturally.

Be ready – just because you SEEM relaxed and inattentive doesn’t mean you are. Be ready to capture the image when it happens.

Use the largest aperture setting you have available – a larger aperture setting reduces the depth-of-field and causes the background, which may distract from the subject, to blur keeping the focus on the subject.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Tips and Tricks: Look for Facial Expressions in Sports Photos

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I don’t pretend to be a know-it-all sports photographer. It’s an area of photography in which practice makes perfect but through my career – especially while working in photojournalism – I have had many opportunities to photography sporting events.

The eyes have it. Look for emotion in sports images. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Schneider)

The eyes have it. Look for emotion in sports images. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Schneider)

One of the more frequent complaints I hear from both students and photo hobbyists who photography sports is their images lack a certain “punch.” So here’s a little tip that my help: Look for emotion.

I’ve said it before on this Website … emotion is the one element a photograph needs to communicate and it holds true in sports photography as much as it does for portrait work.

Sports, fortunately, are ripe with expressive moments. It just a matter of catching the right look, the right facial expression at the right moment. It takes time, patience, practice and the right gear to do so.

Keep your eyes open and stay focused on the game. Once you get the “rhythm” of the game down, then you’ll be able to predict when the action – and emotion – will occur.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

April 13, 2009 at 5:36 am

Photo Critique 10: ‘Waiting for the Magic Bus,’ by Carla B.

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I love critiquing photos. It’s the best way to learn and get new ideas for photo shoots. Today, we’re going to critique an image made by Carla, my friend in Miami, Florida.

"Waiting for the Magic Bus," Carla B., Miami, Florida

"Waiting for the Magic Bus," Carla B., Miami, Florida

General Overview:
Carla, although you do great portrait work, I really like when you leave your “comfort zone” and try something different. The concept for this image is great … it’s an image that really makes the viewer create a story. You give great visual clues and set a nice tone with the image. I think you have a great eye for visual storytelling.

It’s important to give your viewer the ability to let their minds go off the beaten path and dream up a story behind an image. I believe you’re well on your way to doing that with this image.

Good job.

Improvements
Here are a few improvements I will suggest: First, remove the lights that are popping through in the background. I think it’s a little too distracting.

A quick edit removing the lights in the background and playing with the color. (Edit by Jeremy Schneider, photo credit: Carla B., Miami, Florida)

A quick edit removing the lights in the background and playing with the color. (Edit by Jeremy Schneider, photo credit: Carla B., Miami, Florida)

Secondly, I would add a little more light to the subject. An off-camera flash placed to the viewer’s right and directed at the subject would have helped a little.

Finally, I think I would have toned the colors a little more to mute them, with the exception of the red. It might look a little better if all the colors were muted and the red bus station frame popped.

Carla, keep up the good work and keep pushing yourself OUT of your comfort zone and try new things.

Thanks for the submission, good luck and keep shooting!

If you would like to submit a photo for critique, e-mail us at submissions@brickhousephotoschool.com.

Written by jeremyparce

April 5, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Tips & Tricks: Overexposure

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Digital cameras are technically-advanced and extremely user-friendly. So much so, it’s easy to get accustomed to letting the camera do all the thinking and only take photos in the automatic mode. But why limit yourself? A digital camera is a great tool for exploring your creative side.

For this little exercise in digital photography, we’re going to look at using your camera’s shutter priority function.

Most of the time, shutter priority mode is marked as “Tv” or “S” on the dial. This function allows you to input the shutter speed and the camera sets the appropriate aperture value. Let’s assume you don’t know anything about shutter speeds. That’s fine. You can learn as we go along.

Understanding Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is the time value measurement of the camera. It’s the amount of time light is allowed to strike the image sensor. If the scene you’re photographing is relatively dark, then a slower shutter speed is required because it takes more time for enough light to strike the image sensor to make an image. Alternately, a bright scene would require a faster shutter speed because too much light will make the image too bright – or what’s called overexposed.

Overexposure
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s discuss three levels of light were going to be concerned with: highlights, which are the brightest areas; mid-tones, which are the “middle” or “normal” light levels; and lowlights or shadows.
A “properly” exposed image has a balance between highlights, mid-tones and shadows. If an image is underexposed, it is too dark and details are lost in the shadows. If an image is overexposed, it is too bright and the image looses details in the highlight area.

Hard, directional light from the right side of the image was used for lighting. The shutter speed was set so the image would be overexposed giving it a unique look. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Hard, directional light from the right side of the image was used for lighting. The shutter speed was set so the image would be overexposed giving it a unique look. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

If Overexposure is ‘Wrong,’ Why Use It?
Sometimes it’s OK to break the rules.  Overexposure can add a sense of drama. It can also help give a new way to look at something that’s been photographed many, many times. Furthermore, slight overexposure can really help in portraits where your subject has slight facial blemishes such as acne.
Photography is one of those fields that once you know the rules, it’s perfectly OK to bend or break them. Experimenting with different looks and different techniques is a great way to unleash your own creative potential.

OK, You’ve Convinced Me. Now What?
Overexposure is easy, especially with a digital camera since you get instant feedback. Back in the “old days” when I studied photography, I kept a little notebook with me and recorded shutter speed, aperture and other values of all the pictures I took on film. That way, when I developed the images, I could see what process and what values I liked best. I also bracketed the image, which means I shot each image underexposed, properly exposed and overexposed. That way, I could pick and choose what I liked best for the particular image.
With a digital camera, you can leave the notebook at home. Not only can you instantly see the results, the shutter speed and aperture values are recorded for each image.

Step-by-Step
First, find a good subject. Since you’ll be experimenting with many different exposure values, it’s best to find something inanimate since people get cranky and pets get bored or vice versa. Flowers work really well, especially big, colorful flowers.
Next, take your subject outside on a bright day. Place your subject in a location where the background isn’t too distracting.
Now, put your camera on the “Tv” or “S” setting. Then you need to look at the shutter speed value, which will probably be displayed on your LCD view screen. Consult your owner’s manual to find out how to increase or decrease the shutter speed value. There will be a bar, usually at the bottom of your camera, that tells you if you’re underexposed, correctly exposed or overexposed.
Look at the light meter display on your LCD view screen and take a picture at the “normal” or “proper” exposure level. Then, decrease your shutter speed value and take another picture. Keep this up until you can no longer see the subject on the LCD screen. After you’re finished, look at your images on the computer. If you have image editing software, open the images in the software and start applying minor adjustments to your best images until you get the results you want.

While using overexposure gives you a new tool to use in your photography, it won’t work for every subject every time but don’t be afraid to experiment. Try new techniques whenever you get a chance because you might find a new spin on an old subject.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

March 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Reasonable Expectations Will Save You Grief

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My friend’s little brother plays varsity soccer and I was asked to take some pictures of a game. Although I’m not a sports photographer, I do have some equipment geared for sports photography and some experience shooting sports so I loaded up my gear and headed out to the field. What I saw amazed me. No, I wasn’t amazed by the action on the field but at the action on the sidelines.

A few moms and dads were lined up and armed with point-and-shoot cameras. They would take a shot, look at the LCD, scratch their heads then try again and repeat the same look of confusion and frustration.
A little into the game one mom/photographer came up and asked point-blank: What’s wrong with my camera?

“Nothing’s wrong with your camera,” I told her. Then before she thought I meant something was wrong with her I explained – the digital compact camera she was using wasn’t the right tool for the job.
If camera manufacturers do one thing that really irks me it’s this: They set the general public up for disappointment.

Too often, camera companies set expectations too high among consumers as to what digital cameras can do. These ads are fairly similar regardless of the manufacturer. Most of the time, it’s mom or dad standing on the playing field sidelines with point-and-shoot camera at the ready to catch a photo of little Jane or Johnny making the winning touchdown or goal.

So soccer moms and dads go to the nearest big-box electronics retailer, buy a moderately-priced compact camera and head off to take photos of the kids with visions of Sports Illustrated-quality photos dancing in their heads.

Then the disappointment comes. Most of the photos are motion blurred or out of focus. Heads are chopped off. Instead of a picture of the game-winning goal, there’s a picture of someone’s blurry foot and a disembodied hand sticking out of the corner of the frame.

Sound familiar?

That’s because camera manufacturers typically use images in advertising campaigns taken by professional photographers with pro-level equipment. If you look real hard at some ads, there will even be a disclaimer that says the “sample” images included on the product pages are “representative” or “enhanced.” This is what you should be thinking: These images were taken by a professional with professional gear and don’t expect the same outcomes.

Don’t get me wrong. For the average consumer, a $175 compact will cover most photographic needs. But be realistic. It won’t do what professional gear, lighting and experience will do.
Camera companies owe it to consumers to display images that are truly representative of what the camera can do. Consumers won’t feel disappointed or jilted if camera companies set realistic expectations.
Unfortunately, consumers who become discouraged by their camera’s performance stop trying. The camera collects dust and becomes an expensive paperweight. Don’t fall into that trap. Keep shooting and keep making images. Just realize the limits of the equipment.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

March 11, 2009 at 11:00 am

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