Category Archives: Photographer Education

Photographer education information. Articles about learning digital photography, photo workshops, photography classes, photography tips and photographer yours presented by professional photographer Dan Splaine

Pro Photographer Tips for Fall Foliage Photos (Part Two of Two)

TIPS FROM A PRO PHOTOGRAPHER FOR MAKING BETTER FALL FOLIAGE PHOTOS 

Here is the second part of my article  Pro Photographer Tips for Fall Foliage Photos. If you missed the first part of this article you can read it here.   This is a collection , in no particular order, of some of the techniques I use when capturing fall foliage with my digital camera. These are tips  and photo wisdom I have accumulated in my professional photography career. These suggestion work well for foliage photos and general landscape photography.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights ReservedUSE your TRIPOD – Tripods help you keep your camera steady during long exposures which are useful for landscape shots. More importantly, I think, is they slow down your photographic process. Rather than shooting on the fly, you tend to carefully select your camera position and take the time to really scrutinize your scene. Tripods help you make much more deliberate photographic choices.

BE PATIENT– Sometimes you just have to wait for it. Pick you scene and wait for the light. Having the patience to set up a single well composed shot for the moment the light is best is far more rewarding then taking a lot of near misses.  Natural light and weather conditions are constantly in flux often making foliage photography a waiting game.

MANAGE your EXPOSURE – The exposure settings you use will determine how well color presents in your images.  Deploy all the exposure tools in your digital camera to get the best exposure possible.  Carefully use your metering, exposure compensation and histograms to refine your results. Gets exposure right with your camera work, rather than relying on photo editing software to repair poorly made exposures, for the best foliage photo results.

VISUAL ANCHOR – When you are composing a landscape, or a scene with an extended foreground area include a visual anchor.  Place an object of a known size in the foreground of your shot like a boulder for a pond scene. This provides the viewer a starting point that leads them into your photo and reference to the scale of your scene.

LOOK for REFLECTIONS – Be on the lookout for the colors of fall that reflect in streams and on rainy streets.  Reflections found on moving water can offer interesting visual effects.  I find that in the early morning lakes and ponds tend to be more still, providing mirror like conditions.

ARRANGE the SHOT – It is OK to re-arrange the furniture.  Just because Mother Nature dropped a leaf in a particular spot does not mean it must stay there.   Move that gem of a leave you discovered into better lighting for your close-up shot. If you have a bare spot in your scene it is alright to sprinkle in some leaves to cover it up.  Nature’s designs are incredible but sometime they can use a little help.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights ReservedCOLOR COMBINATIONS – Find a scene with complementary color combinations.  A solitary golden leafed tree against a background of evergreens or a solitary yellow leaf on a bough full of orange for example.  Fall foliage provides excellent colors to work with, find the combinations that work best together.

ISOLATE DETAILS – It is easy to get overwhelmed with the grand vistas of fall color.  Seek out the details, the small slices of visual interest in your scene. The droplet of water hanging on the edge of a leave can be a dramatic photo.  The textures and details of leave structure offer infinite photographic potential.

GO ABSTRACT – Not every shot has to be literal in meaning or in sharp focus.  Play with the motion of the wind and long exposures for unique views.  Use the optical and exposure settings in combinations that alter depth of field and how the passage of time displays.  With such an exceptional palette to play with the only limitation is your imagination.

The fall foliage show is a favorite for photographers of all skill levels.  My suggestion is to get out there while the getting is good.  Every day of autumn presents a new photo opportunity in your own backyard or at your favorite National Park.

The photographer tips I included here are the ones I use in my pursuit of the ideal fall foliage image.  Try a few or try them all, just get out with your camera before the season passes.

Please let me know if you found this article helpful and please share the information with all of your photography friends,

 

              This part two of a two-part article – READ PART 1

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Pro Photographer Tips for Fall Foliage Photos (Part One of Two)

TIPS FROM A PRO PHOTOGRAPHER FOR MAKING BETTER FALL FOLIAGE PHOTOS

One of the real pleasures of living in New England is the variety of seasons. For photographers, the fall is one of the richest visual feasts we have the pleasure to experience. As the autumn chills wipe away the summer heat we get a fantastic display of color. My New Hampshire home provides a front row seat to this show and I eagerly explore the region for foliage photo opportunities.

In this article I would like to share some tips based on my professional photography experience that will help you make better fall foliage photos. These are some of the techniques and habits I use when I am out chasing fall foliage color.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights ReservedTIMING is EVERYTHING – Especially when it comes to fall foliage. Have your camera with you and shoot it when you see it. The color transformations are dynamic and changing rapidly, from moment-to-moment and day-to-day.  Keep your camera handy and always be ready to make the shot.

RESEARCH – Plan your fall foliage trips carefully.  Scout out locations at other times of year and make notes about sun direction and time of day. Keep in mind that elevation effect foliage.  Use on-line foliage tracking sites.  All of the New England states tourism offices provide tracking information. Plan a route that offers the best views timed for the best light. You don’t always have to travel far to find foliage.  One of my favorite spots  is a local cemetery with a grove of mature maples that is just around the corner.

TIME of DAY – The best times of day for capturing fall foliage colors is either early in the morning or late afternoon.  The “Golden Hours” after sunrise and before sunset are ideal for nature photography. The light tends to be warmer, providing more intense color. It is also more diffuse, due to extended travel thorough the atmosphere, resulting in softer shadows and a decrease in dynamic range.

DAYLIGHT WHITE BALANCE– Although the default “AUTO” white balance setting is useful for general photography, I find the daylight setting works better for fall foliage.  This White Balance preset will match your sensor to the prevailing light conditions.  The results are reminiscent of my old favorites Kodachrome and Velvia slide film. Shooting in the RAW file format (instead of JPEG) will give you the most options for refining your white balance with more precision in post production.

POLARIZER FILTER– A circular polarizer filter is exceptionally useful for foliage photography.  It will darken your skies and will increase the saturation of color. Polarizer filters are useful for managing reflections and will help to knock down the shine of leaves on a sunny day. Because they have light blocking properties they act much like ND (neutral density) filters which can help to extend exposure times.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights Reserved

WEATHER HELPS – Inclement weather is ideal for fall foliage photography.  Get out in the rain and see how it changes the quality of color.  Overcast skies are useful for photographing water features like ponds and waterfalls.  Mist and fog add an element of mystery and rain and drizzle will increase the saturation of color in your photos.

GO LONG – Wide angle lenses are good for capturing large scenes but I prefer to use longer lenses when shooting foliage. The compression effects of longer focal lengths work well with dense forest scenes.  A telephoto lens will also be helpful for isolating dominant visual elements that make shots more interesting.

COMPOSE SIMPLY – When it comes to fall foliage, simple composition works best.  A solitary visual element thoughtfully arranged against a simple background has more impact than a cluttered scene. Color is the most powerful composition element we have to work with in foliage photography. Feature it prominently in well designed photos.

 

       This part one of a two-part articleREAD PART 2

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Join me In Nashua, NH for the Scott Kelby Worlwide PhotoWalk – Oct. 5, 2013

I am the organizer for the Nashua, New Hampshire gathering of the 2013 Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.  This is an annual event that involves more than 15, 000 photographers in over 900 cities worldwide. (with many more joining every day.)   We will spend a  few hours exploring the Millyard district of downtown Nashua with our cameras and then we will gather at a local pub for some social fun. I hope you will join us!

Join us on October 5, 2013 in Nashua, Nh for the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk

This is free event that is open to photographers of all skill levels.  We already have over 30  people signed up so make sure you REGISTER TODAY. This will be a great chance to meet other photographers, and to have some fun in downtown Nashua.

Our edition of the photowalk will start at the French Mill Worker memorial statue along the Nashua River (Water Street parking lot) at 2:30 PM on October 5.   We will wander along the banks of the river, into the mill yards and around the downtown area.  My studio is located in the Picker Building which is in the heart of the old mills and I am very familiar with the photo opportunities we can discover here.

You can enter the photography that you make during this event  into a photo competition with plenty of prizes up for grabs.  For a good explanation check out this video with Scott Kelby which provides the background about the photowalk and more details.

Link to Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk VIDEO

This is one of the many activities that I organize for photographers  here in Nashua, NH and throughout New England.  Make sure you got to my schedule page to see my latest photography workshops and photographer tours.  And please sign-up for my email list so I can keep you in the loop about other photo events.

 

REGISTER TODAY!

 

Four Features of Good Photos; What makes your photos look good?

So you spent the time to get out and shoot some photos.  You found subjects that seemed interesting and tried some different techniques  The photo files are uploaded to your computer and you are looking them over.  Now what?   How do you know if the photos  are good or not?

The ability to judge the quality of your own photography is an important skill for all photographers.

How do you know you made a good photo?

What are the features of good-looking photos? What do you look for when you are critiquing your camera work?

What are the features of good photos? In this article professional photographer Dan Splaine shares four features you want to analyze when reviewing your photography.  View of the old Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH on a foggy morning, from the bow of the Isle of Shoals ferry boat. Copyright © 2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights Reserved

 

These questions are just as important to for beginner photographers as they are for seasoned professional shooters.  What are the features of great looking photos that you want to identify in your shots?  An important skill to learn is the ability to find the elements that work, the visual features that distinguish great photos from mediocre.  Here are some of the details to look for and evaluate  when you review your photography.

COMPOSITION –  Is the image arranged so the viewer immediately sees the idea of your photo?   If the composition is well done the viewer’s eye naturally finds your intended center of attention.  Poor composition pulls the viewer away from that intent.  Do the details and visual elements  take away from your meaning, or make a positive impression with the viewer?

Not everyone can identify a well composed photo but they all sure know what a bad one looks like.  Humans process visual information rapidly, on a sub-conscious basis making visual details important.  Composition can make or break your viewer attention and is fundamental to good photography.

IMPACT  – Does your photo grab attention?  Photos with impact create a response in the viewer as soon as they look at it.  Images with the greatest impact evoke an emotion, inspire profound thought or even give motivation to act.  We feel horrified by news photos of natural disasters.  Great advertising photography motivates us to go out and buy something.  When you present a Mother a beautiful  portrait of their child and they squeal with delight, the photo has impact.  Impact is intangible  but is usually found in the photos people can’t take their eyes off.

CENTER OF INTEREST – Make sure you give the viewer something to look at, a subject or feature that you want to highlight in your shot.  The use of focus, framing, lines, camera position all  can lead the viewer to your intended point of attention.   Photos with a single dominant element are more pleasing than cluttered scenes with ambiguous features.  Any of the choices you make that take away from your point of interest produce a weaker image.

LIGHTING – Light is the basic building block of photography. Your use of light, the range and placement of highlights and shadows,  is critical to the success of your photographs.  Mastering exposure means you display colors and tones accurately, in a way that enhances the viewer experience.  Light and shadow provide depth and interest in your photos.  Evaluating and using the direction, intensity and qualities of light in your image will help you determine the quality of your photography.

Take the time to check your results, to scrutinize the details of your photography on your computer monitor.  Identifying the features of your shots that are successful and the  parts that don’t quite hit the mark,  is part of the photographer learning process.  These are the same items I consider in my professional photography work.  They will help you understand why your photos appeal to your viewers. Look at photography that you find appealing. Identify these four features of good photos to understand why they look good to you.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Commercial Photographer and Photo Educator Dan Splaine has over  thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.

Interested in learning more about photography or would like to know about my photography education program?  Please sign-up for our email list. For the latest schedule of photography workshops and photo tour s go to our SCHEDULE PAGE

 

Photography ISO; How to use ISO in your photography.

Some Tips And Info For Selecting the “correct” photography ISO

For photographers, knowing what ISO is and how to use it is an important skill.  Photography ISO selection allows the photographer to adapt to the lighting conditions found in their scene. The ISO value you select is one leg of the exposure triangle, along with aperture and shutter speed, which allows for precise exposure and creative control.  Understanding ISO and how to use it is a fundamental to making great photography.

"What is ISO and how do use it in my photography?". A blog post by commercial photographer Dan Splaine. © 2013 Daniel J. Splaine - All Rights Reserved

With digital cameras the ISO is a numerical value given for the level of sensitivity your camera sensor has to light.  We saw the same rating system with film.  Perhaps you remember (if you are old school like me) shooting ISO 100, 400, 800 etc… rated rolls of film?  Do any of you old timers remember ASA ratings on film (pre-ISO)?   With digital cameras we have the option to select a particular photography ISO for each shot we take, which is big advantage of digital cameras.

 

In general the lower the ISO setting the less sensitive your sensor will be to light, the higher the ISO setting the more sensitive your sensor will be to light.  This means that when you are shooting in bright conditions you can use a low ISO value and when shooting in low light conditions you select a high ISO value.ion to select a particular ISO value for every shot, which is a big advantage of digital cameras.

Most digital cameras offer a range of ISO values to choose from; 100 to 3200 is a common range of choices, although many models of camera go higher and lower.  In general, the lower the ISO the better quality your results will be.  Using a higher ISO will increase noise (digital artifacts), reduce sharpness and decrease the contrast ratio of your results.  Digital cameras with larger sensors produce less of these negative effects than cameras with smaller sensors. Low ISO setting will then have less noise, more sharpness and a larger contrast ratio which will produce the higher quality images relative to high ISO settings.

In my opinion these disadvantage, the reductions in image quality balance against the benefits of having the option to shoot at a higher ISO rating.  Most issues with noise, sharpness and contrast, yo can  restore with software and I would urge you to shoot high values when conditions dictate.  Being able to shoot action photos at high shutter speeds, with a telephoto lens in an indoor scene is only possible with high ISO values  (1600, 3200, 6400) making the trade-off in quality  acceptable .

A variable ISO allows you to adapt your exposure settings to the scene and the creative options you want to use in your photography.

My general recommendation is to select the lowest ISO value that will allow for a proper exposure with the least noise. 

ISO TIPS FOR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHERS

Here are some of my recommendations for using  different ISO values in your digital photography.  This is an important exposure tool and I urge you to explore this option for creative control of your photography.  Good images always start with good camera work and ISO is a fundamental tool for photography.

 

  • TURN OFF your AUTO ISO – By using auto ISO you are letting the camera make a ISO value choice. The photographer should decide which ISO suits their photographic intent best. This is one habit you want to change if your goal is to take control of your creative results.Turn AUTO ISO off, and leave it off!
  • SELECT the ISO FOR THE SCENE:  When you are beginning to decide your exposure settings, one of the first steps is to select an ISO value that is right for the scene and your photographic intentions.  If you are in the woods with an overhead canopy of foliage blocking your light you would select a higher value.  If you are shooting portraits with plenty of window light and you want to use large apertures for shallow depth of field then a low value would be your best choice.  Evaluate the lighting resources and exposure options for the image you want to create and choose the ISO according to those goals.
  • CHANGES in ISO ARE EQUAL TO “STOPS” –  When we change our exposure settings (in whole stop increments) we are halving or doubling the amount of exposure.  For example if you move from F 11 to F 8 you are doubling the aperture size or if you move from 1/250th of second to 1/125th of a second you are cutting the duration of your exposure in half.  The same ratio holds true with ISO  When you move from 400 to 800 you are doubling the sensitivity setting or as we would say increasing it by a “stop”.  Digital cameras allow for incremental changes in EV (Exposure Value = Stops) usually in half and third stop amounts.  You can refine exposure equally with aperture, shutter speed or ISO in those partial stop increments.
  • SHOOT RAW –  RAW is the best format for image capture and will yield the best results because you are collecting the greatest amount of data when you make your photo. JPEG is great file format to distribute photos but it produces less quality for capture.  Process RAW files  with photo editing software post capture, to yield the highest quality images.  The negative effects of shooting with high ISO (noise, sharpness, and contrast effects) increase when shooting JPEG compared to RAW
  • PLAY with EXPOSURE COMBINATIONS – There is no exact recipe for exposure combinations.  Play with a variety of exposure combinations and ISO settings and compare your results on your computer. Each variable in the exposure triangle makes a difference in how your images will ultimately look. Experimenting with combinations will produce a variety of visual results.
  • USE A TRIPOD – If you are seeking low noise, high sharpness and a wide contrast ratio that low ISO settings provide use a tripod.  Long lenses and long exposure times make hand-held photography difficult, especially in dim light at a low ISO.  Securing you camera on a tripod is the solution for this type of shooting situation.
  • SHOOTING HAND-HELD with TELEPHOTO LENS –  Long lenses are difficult to use when shooting  hand-held.  By increasing your ISO setting you can then shoot at faster shutter speeds which will eliminate the blur caused by camera movement.  For example an ISO of 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second shooting with a 500 mm lens.
  • HIGH SHUTTER SPEEDS = HIGH ISO –  If you want to stop subject action you need to shoot at high shutter speeds.  Increasing your ISO will allow you to increase your shutter speed.  This is especially useful for shooting indoor sports or performances with limited stage lighting.
  • USE ARTIFICIAL LIGHT – Sometimes we run into the limits of ISO choices in particular photographic conditions.  For example you are shooting a portrait in a low available  light setting.  Facial details and skin looks best at low ISO values (100-200) and raising the ISO to a high value will produce less than flattering results.  The solution to this situation it to use flash or other artificial light sources to keep the quality you want.  More light is often a better solution than a higher ISO.
Digital cameras have very precise exposure refinement tools and a variable ISO option is one of the most important.  Understanding this feature and how to deploy it,  how to select ISO for your scene to make the desired photographic result is essential for good image making.
Interested in learning more about photography or would like to know about my photography education program?  Please sign-up for our email list. For the latest schedule of photography workshops and photo tour s go to our SCHEDULE PAGE