Tag Archives: photo composition and design

Tips for Summer Photography Fun

You can spend the long days of summer doing many things.  It’s the time of year to get outdoors and to have  fun in the sun.  Summer is also a prime season for photography fun.  When you head out on your vacations and weekend events make sure you include your camera in your plans. With extended hours of daylight and warm weather there are excuses for getting out and making some photos. Nature is in full bloom and there is an infinite supply of subjects to capture. Listed below are some suggestions and tips for having some summer photography fun.

Dan Splaine Photo Workshop Portsmouth-3

FIND COLOR – After drab winter and springs the summer has an abundance of color.  From beach umbrellas to blossoms, there is plenty of opportunity to feature this design element in our photography.  Color grabs the viewers attention so don’t be shy using it.  Vibrant hues are the stuff of summer and they should be featured in your images.

DOCUMENT YOUR TRAVELS– Summer is the traditional season for vacations and travel.  Next time you hit the road give yourself a photo “assignment”.  Capture the narrative of your summer travels, whether it’s a picnic with your kids or a once in a lifetime European adventure.  Tell the story of the trip with your photos by artfully documenting the places you experience and the people you meet on the way.

HIT the BEACH– The beach is always a summer destination and oceans, lakes and streams are great photography locations.  While you work on your tan work on your photography.  Crashing waves, cruising boats and kids playing are great for practicing action photography.  Seascapes and sunsets make for more sublime image making.

GET INTO NATURE – Visit a State or National Park with your camera. Capture the landscape, the ecosystem and wildlife with your photography. Slow hikes through natural spaces allow you to connect with nature and are a wealth of inspiration for photography. The beauty of Natural History subjects are part of the visual summer bounty that should be at the top of your shot list.

USE FILL FLASH for SUMMER PORTRAITS – Bright sunshine might be good for suntans, but not so great for making portraits.  Harsh, direct, overhead sunshine is unflattering and uncomfortable for you subject.  Learn how to use your flash in combination with sunshine to light your summer portraits. Position your subject so their face is shade to protect them from the glare of summer sun and use your flash to fill in the shadows.  Balancing natural light and flash is useful skill to learn and practice for summer photos.

PHOTO WORKSHOPS and TOURS– Take your photography to the next step and invest in a photography class or workshop during the summer.  From a few hours to a few days, spending dedicated time in a photo workshop will advance your photography skills. Make a workshop part of your vacation or a summer treat just for yourself. (You can find out about my program of photo workshops and photo tours here)

THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM – Make the effort to enjoy early summer mornings with your camera.  The light of dawn is rich. There is nothing like a summer sun rising over a foggy pond or beaming through a forest for making beautiful images. Begin your summer days with your photography to make the best of the season.

Photography student having some summer photography fun at a landscape photo workshop presented by professional photographer Dan Splaine in New Hampshire's White Mountains.  ©2014 Daniel J. Splaine - All Rights Reserved

Learning to See the World Photographically: Developing your Photographer “Eye”

photo_workshop_studentHow does a new photographer learn how to see the world photographically? The difference between a beginner photographer and a more experienced shooter is the ability to see the creative potential in even the most common of scenes. Being able to readily recognize photographic possibilities is what having a  photographers “eye” is all about. New photographers often get caught up in the technology and tend to shoot without a well established visual point of view. It is hard to resist the urge to simply put the camera to your eye and to snap away. This method is random and the results usually consist of many uninteresting  photos interrupted with the occasional “lucky” shot.

Becoming a skillful photographer that is able to consistently create quality images is matter of practice.  Along with practicing camera operations you have to commit effort into developing your photographic perspective – the photographers “eye”.  Listed below are a six tips and techniques for refining your visual approach that should guide your progress.
 
Observe carefully
Creating a photograph begins well before you raise the camera and press the shutter button.  Good photography begins with careful observation.  Closely look at the world around you to find potential subjects and scenes.  Evaluate design features, lighting arrangements and the dynamic features of action and emotion.  Ask and answer ” What about this scene is visually compelling?”  Determine what about the scene would interest a viewer and think about how you want to present it photographically. Use that observation to choose camera position, focal length and the composition of your shot.  To see photographically you have to look carefully
Slow your rollIMG_7502
The ease of operation and the level of automation makes it easy to get into a rapid-fire mode with digital cameras.  Along with observation I suggest some deliberation. Slow down your process.  Take the time to consider all of your creative options before you make the shot.  Scrutinize your viewfinder and your composition well before you push the trigger.  Include only the visually compelling elements and remove the extraneous. One way to really slow your shooting is to use a tripod.  The time and effort needed to set up camera position is useful for reviewing the qualities of your image. Be deliberate in your metering, focusing and exposure settings selections.  Put the time into getting your camerawork done well, to produce top quality photography.
Quality versus Quantity
Everybody needs an editor, especially us photographers.  Be a little more selective in your subjects and scenes. Develop a patient approach to photography and wait for the moments to unfold.  I was fortunate to have the economics of film to govern my volume of shooting as a young photographer.  Every blown frame or sheet of film cost money and time and I quickly learned to become a judicious shooter.  Donating dollars to Kodak and burning hours in the darkroom on an abundance of dull photos was a very potent learning experience that I wish the modern digital photographer could have. It is much more satisfying creatively to produce a few high quality images then hard drives full of mediocre photos. Put your effort in to making fewer, better photos.
Rinse and repeat
The directive to rinse and repeat is a classic advertising pitch that relates to learning photography.  One of the best ways to develop your eye is to photograph the same subject over and over.  Approach the subject at different times, from unique angles and with changes in lighting conditions. It can be a place in your own backyard, a point you pass on a regular walk or a family member that can patiently and often be a portrait subject. Challenge yourself to make a unique version of the subject every time you shoot it.  The objective is to examine and capture all the visual possibilities. Work out all the creative controls and options you have to present the familiar in unique ways.
Work with a single lensPoint and shoot digital camera
Having a camera bag full of gear and an arsenal of lenses to shoot with can sometimes complicate the photography process.  A very useful exercise is to limit your photo sessions to working with a single lens.  Prime lenses are ideal for this because they are limited to single focal length.  Using a fixed focal length forces you to move around and toward your subject, seeking the best perspective.  If you only own zoom lenses only you can imitate the prime lens by working with a single fixed zoom position (use a rubber band or gaffers tape to prevent the zoom action.) Working with one lens length is about training your eye and developing an understanding of how each length of lens presents your scene.  Simplify your gear choice and concentrate on the perspective and design of your photography.
Understand your optics
Learn about how optical choices change the look of your photography.  Understanding the relationship between focus distance, aperture and focal length is required to make predictable results with your photos. Knowledge of lens operation and the creative options they offer is the difference between occasionally getting a lucky shot or consistently making the photo you intended.  Optics are critical to capturing your point of view and they are the mechanical interpreters of your personal vision.
Learning to see the world photographically is a matter of effort and practice. Identifying the visual potential of subjects and scenes and then understanding how you present them to a viewer photographically is a skill. Next time you give your camera a workout  use these suggestions to develop your own photographic “eye”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. Based in New Hampshire he provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. Dan is a photo educator and  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 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.

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