BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘photographic composition

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!

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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 and Tricks: Getting Good Candid Photos

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Good candid photos (photos that aren’t posed) are easy to get if you have a little patience. Here are a few tips:

Watch and wait for your subject to do something that shows emotion or personality (Photo Credit: Andres U., Miami, Florida)

Watch and wait for your subject to do something that shows emotion or personality (Photo Credit: Andres U., Miami, Florida)

  • Watch and Wait: Keep your camera ready to shoot then wait for the right moment so when it comes, you’ll be ready.
  • Use Zoom: By using your zoom, you can stay further away from the subject, which allows the subject to be more relaxed and natural acting.
  • Take Plenty of Photos: You never know when something is going to happen so keep clicking away. You’re not using film so there’s no “waste.” Just delete the less-interesting photos and keep going.
  • Look for Moments: Wait for those moments that really express the subject’s character. Try to reveal something about your subject to your viewers by showing personality traits.

Written by jeremyparce

March 22, 2009 at 9:00 am

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