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Techniques


Freshen Up Your Photography

Since trends in photography are ever-changing, what can you do to keep up and keep people interested in your work? Here are a couple of tips we've learnt recently that we thought were worth sharing.
TRY SHOOTING MORE VERTICALS
These are popular in social media. Think about the vertical format of the mobile phone for instance. If you include a good mix of vertical (portrait format) pictures in your online portfolio or in your social media content you'll be keeping up with the current trend, and add interest to your body of work.
KEEP IT REAL
More and more people are drawn to imagery that shows real emotion and spontaneity. Get out into your environment and show it off as it really is, photograph people just as they feel in a moment and let them be themselves so that your viewers can relate to them. These kinds of images have more impact now than a posed portrait in a controlled environment. Aim for natural pictures to keep people looking at your work. Even product photography is more eye-catching when modelled and photographed out in our natural environment.
Try these ideas as you grow in your photography this year. And as always we love to see your pictures, so keep sharing them with us on our Facebook page.

Tips for taking good photos with single use cameras.

Since 1986, the modern single use or disposable camera has been making photography accessible for more people and they are still an easy go-to when you want a camera on the run. They are the simplest camera you will ever use. Literally point and shoot. They have a viewfinder, a shutter button, a wheel to wind the film on to the next frame, and some have a flash. It doesn't matter if it gets scratched or thrown around because there's not a lot to break! No need to worry about loading a film, you just grab it and capture moments. So how do you use these little guys to get the best out of them? Here are a few simple pointers:
FIND THE LIGHT
There is no way to change shutter speed or aperture with these cameras. They normally have ISO400 or 800 film pre-loaded in them, meaning the film is more sensitive to light which helps in lower light situations, and will also add a bit of that cool film grain to your pictures. But they need sufficient light to make an image. So indoors especially, make sure there is light on your subject, and not behind your subject (unless you're going for a silhouette of course). Outside, go for lots of light, but not too bright! Use open shade like under a tree or veranda, or in an alley way where the light is diffused.
CHECK YOUR DISTANCE
Stand at least 1 to 1.5 metres away from your subject. Any closer and they will be out of focus. These cameras are focus-free after all!
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
There is no way to zoom with these little cameras, so the best way to get creative is to change your perspective. Move to find an artistic angle to make it interesting. Try the rule of thirds: imagine a grid in the viewfinder made up of 9 equal rectangles. If you move so that your subject sits on any of the points where the lines meet, you will create a picture that is more pleasing to the eye than a picture with the subject right in the centre.
FIRE UP THE FLASH
Some cameras have a flash, but it is not automatic. To turn it on press the button or slide the switch on the front of the camera. It is always good to use the flash. If you're subject is too close to the camera though, the flash will 'blow out' the subject and you'll lose detail. If you're too far away, the flash will not reach your subject to light it properly. Between 1 and 3 metres from your subject should give you a decent exposure. Even outside in the sun, using the flash will lift shadows. If your subject has the sun behind it, use the flash to light it up from the front.
WATCH THE FINGERS!
Since the lens is lower then the viewfinder, it is easy to put your fingers in front of the lens without realizing it. So remember to keep your fingers well away from the lens unless you want blurry pictures of your fingertips! And be careful to keep your fingers off the flash too. The result will be a dark picture!
HOLD STILL
Lastly, hold the camera with both hands. This will help you keep the camera steady for sharper pictures.


Shapes are everywhere around us. In fact, shapes are what we usually notice first in a scene or an image, whether we are aware of them or not. Since they are so easy to find, it's a great way for new photographers to add an artistic perspective to their photography. You will find a shape in any object that has a defined outline. Less obvious shapes or 'negative shapes' can be found when two objects come together (when viewed from a particular perspective) to form a shape. Silhouettes form strong shapes too, and can add an extra creative dimension that leads the viewer's mind to think about what the object is that made the shape. You can get regular shapes - like circles, squares etc - that convey a feeling of order and highlight symmetry. Irregular shapes like skewed triangles, ovals, rectangles and curves convey motion, interest and even a relaxed vibe. An interesting photo could be made up of a single object or a collection of objects. Try repeating similar shapes that are bunched or stacked for a pleasing look. Constantly examine your surroundings - above and below too - for strong shapes. Then shoot them from an unusual angle. Add negative space or 'blank' areas for an interesting composition. Zoom in or out for another way to find alternative perspectives. TRY THIS EXERCISE: Pick an ordinary object that you see every single day. Something at your home or office or on your daily commute. Find as many ways of photographing it as you possibly can. - How does it's shape change under different lighting conditions? - What kinds of lines and angles are created when you view it from different perspectives? - What textures and patterns do you discover as you zoom in or out? As you do this more and more, you will eventually learn to see ordinary things in new ways, even when your camera is not up to your eye!

If you are keen to improve your photography, seek out opportunities to practise. Have your camera with you as much as you can. And ask others for tips. Here are 5 to help you improve your photos now.

1. Take time to learn It takes time to reflect on and research new information and techniques. Don't skip this essential part of your growth as a photographer. What makes a great picture? Study other photographers who are successful in your field. Think about why they chose their subject, what inspired them and why they took the photo that way. It's not about copying other photographers, rather, learn from them. And carry that expertise over into your own style and thought process. 2. Study light The quality of light on your subject and it's direction has a huge effect on your picture. Things to consider carefully are the colour of the light, the amount of light available, how harsh or soft it is, and where it's coming from. Colour: Warm light (producing golden tones) occurs naturally just after sunrise and just before sunset. But you modify the colour or temperature of the light by adjusting your camera's white balance setting to suit your desired look. You can make light look cold (bluer) using theses settings, or you can shoot in the shade, at midday, or in the hour preceding sunrise and following sunset. Harsh vs Soft: Harsh light creates strong shadows. Natural light is most harsh in the middle of the day. When shooting in harsh light, try and use the shadows to your advantage, make them part of you picture to add interest. Soft (or diffused) light creates soft shadows which is usually preferred for portraits and most other types of photography. It is usually created by reflecting light from a large, light coloured surface. Easy reflectors are walls, concrete, a flash bounced onto a white ceiling for example. Or you can place a large semi-transparent material between the light and your subject. The sunlight is naturally diffused or softened on a slightly cloudy day, where the sun shines through a thin layer of cloud.

3. Use your histogram The histogram on your camera looks like a graph with peaks and valleys and is used to make precise exposures. It displays the distribution of light in your exposure. If there is a gap to the left of the histogram and the graph moves to the right, your image is over-exposed. If your image is under-exposed, the graph looks the opposite. You can change your exposure before you shoot by studying the histogram in your viewfinder or on your camera's LCD to adjust your exposure correctly.

4. Give your subject room to move Make good use of space around your subject. How much of the surroundings do you want in your picture? If they add to the image in an interesting way, give your story context or add to the emotion you are wanting to evoke in the viewer, they should be included. Include less of the surroundings if you want your subject to dominate the image, but take care not to make the image look 'cramped' if your subject lacks space to move into the picture. The viewer naturally looks into the area that the subject is looking or moving into. To keep your shot looking balanced, leave more space ahead rather than behind your subject.

5. Have a really good look at your work A great way to improve your photography skills is to critically analyze your work. This doesn't mean looking at your photos and deciding why you don't like them. It's better to look carefully at your photos, especially your favourites. What it is about the photo that makes it pleasing to look at? What would you do differently if you could shoot it again? Have other people give you feedback on your work. It can be a bit intimidating to put your photos out there for critique, but having an extra set of eyes on your photos will help you hone your skills.


How to Photograph Lights

Fairy lights, Christmas lights and street lights. We are attracted to lights. And they look amazing in pictures. The following tips can be applied in many lighting situations, so use them as a guideline and add your own creativity. We'll focus on two ways photographers like to capture lights. 1. Christmas lights Keep your camera steady. You're going to be shooting in low light, and will need to keep the shutter open a bit longer, so you need a tripod. Or you could try keeping the camera steady by resting your arm on a table or chair etc. The longer your exposure time, the more stable your support needs to be. Keep your ISO low and your shutter slow. This is to keep noise or grain to a minimum. Think of capturing a smooth, creamy background. The ambient light in your room will add warmth and context to your picture. You just don't want your shutter so slow that your lights no longer stand out against the dark room. Focus for creativity. Not all the lights need to be in focus. Shoot from an angle and open up your aperture to blur your background. But if you want them all in focus, stand back or shoot with a wider angle lens. Close down your aperture to something like f16 or smaller and you will also start to notice small starbursts around the individual twinkles of the lights. Try using manual focus. Twist the focus ring until the image becomes blurry. This will bring out the bokeh from the lights, making your image glow with colour! This combined with a slow shutter will give a nice warm feel to your image. Avoid using flash. A direct flash will tend to flatten your images and you’ll lose the ambient glow of the fairy lights. If you need to use flash to add some light, lower it's power, and bounce it off the ceiling or a wall to diffuse the light.
2. Models and fairy lights
Make sure you use the right lens. You want your subject to be in focus with quite a blurred or ‘bokeh’ background. To achieve the ‘bokeh’ look, use a lens that has a very shallow depth of field (a very wide aperture). Lenses that have f1.8, f1.4, f1.2 apertures are the perfect lenses. The lower the number, the better your ‘bokeh’.
Stay close. To get the pretty bokeh lights and blurred background, you want to stand around about an arm's length from your model. The closer you are to your subject, the shallower your depth of field will be.
Ask your model to hold one end of the lights and you (the photographer) hold the other end. The lights should come from your model out to your lens to give your picture depth, but get creative with the positioning. Wrap them around hands, props, even the front of your lens. Try using more or less lights to change the mood. Make sure your focus is on your model's eyes. Keep your ambient light low, or shoot at twilight. You want light but not too much, to create a soft, warm, moody feel to your pictures. Give these tips a go and add your own creativity. We want to see what you come up with, so please share them with us on Instagram or Facebook. Let us know what tips helped you most, and share any tips you've discovered!

Beginners guide to off-camera flash

Why off-camera flash?

  1. You can shoot at any time of the day or night, and control your lighting conditions. This means you can take great photos at mid-day on a bright sunny day, after the sun goes down and on a dark, overcast day.
  2. Flash makes colours pop or eliminates unwanted colour casts.
  3. You can control where and how much light hits your subject.
  4. You have control over ambient exposure. Like the sky and the light on your backlit subjects, or the night lights in the distance and your subject in the foreground.
  5. You can put the light behind your subject for dramatic effects.
You will need:
  • A compatible flash or two with a rotating head and both TTL (through the lens) and manual abilities
  • A wireless trigger and receiver set. This is how your camera communicates with your flash. The transmitter mounts onto the hot shoe of your camera, the receiver attaches to your flash.
  • A tripod or lightstand. A lightstand is ideal because you can add light modifiers like an umbrella, or soft box. Whichever way you decide, the sturdier the better.

What is TTL? 
This is where you let the camera decide how much light the flash is to emit. TTL (Through the Lens) is when your flash sends out a pre-flash to assess the scene. This tells the flash how much light it needs to flash to make a good exposure. TTL is good to use when your subject is moving quickly and distance or lighting conditions are changing.    You can still make adjustments to the flash exposure in TTL, you would use exposure compensation on your flash like you would on you camera, by adjusting the amount of light by +/- 1/3 stop increments.
Why use Manual?
In Manual, you get to decide how much light your flash emits. Sometimes the lighting in a scene might be a bit 'confusing' for a flash in TTL mode. Like maybe sunlight is lighting half a room but you want to expose for the entire space. Or maybe you want to let ambient light in as well as light up your subject. So in Manual mode, you can turn the 'power' up or down for more control over the amount of light added to your scene.
In Manual mode you can control the zoom, or how wide the flash's beam of light is. In TTL  mode, your camera will read the zoom on your lens and automatically set your zoom on your flash. If you need wider coverage you would use manual mode to change the zoom to a wider setting. The effect of the size of the beam is kind of like a hose head with an adjustable stream. A wider setting sprays the light and it lands closer to you, whereas a narrower beam of light is like the 'jet' setting. It hits a narrower area and goes further. 

Set up your camera
  1. Shutter speed. Every camera has a 'sync speed'. A common maximum sync speed is 1/250 of a second. In this case the camera's shutter speed must be 1/250 or less. Otherwise the bottom part of your image will not be lit at all, and you'll get a big black line in your photo. A slower shutter speed will let more ambient light in. 
  2. Aperture. This controls how much flash will light your scene. The lower the number, the more more power you get. If your flash is too bright, raise the aperture number.
  3. ISO. This is another way to control the amount of light from your camera. Increase ISO for more flash, decrease it to turn the light down.


1. Manual mode
Learn how to use the manual settings. At night, using your camera’s Auto exposure mode risks an automatic boost to your ISO, and auto-focusing your lens becomes significantly less effective.
2. Stay steady
Use a steady tripod and remote shutter release to ensure image sharpness in low light. Practice using them so you can set them up quickly and make rapid adjustments in the dark.
3. Know the best time
Learn sunrise and sunset times and the moon’s phase for your destination to make the most of picture opportunities related to these elements.
4. Arrive early
Arriving at your destination before dark will enable you to scout the area and set up your gear in daylight conditions, and will also allow you to gradually accustom your eyes to darkness.
5. Shoot in RAW
Set your camera to record images in raw file format. This will allow you greater control in finessing contrast, color temperature, or white balance settings of your image files in post processing.
6. Use your Histogram
Check your histogram. Don’t trust the exposure displayed on your camera’s LCD. To ensure correct exposure, learn how to access and interpret the image histogram and blinking highlights.
7. Long Exposure NR
Long Exposure Noise Reduction can be a good or bad. Good - it gives you a clean image straight out of the camera. Bad - When LENR is turned on most cameras will be inoperable during that process.
8. Take Notes
Take careful notes about your exposure settings while you are shooting so to better analyze your decision-making after downloading the images. Night photography presents many variables.



WHAT YOU NEED...
  • Camera with manual settings
  • Sturdy tripod (that can handle wind)
  • Cable release or remote with timer/lock
  • ND Filters (when shooting long exposures in the light)

1. Slow Down or Speed Up Your Shutter Speed
The amount of time that the camera’s shutter is open determines how much subject movement the camera’s image sensor will ‘see’. 
For example, if your shutter speed is fast (eg 1/4000th of a second) it will ‘freeze’ subject movement. If you select a longer shutter speed (eg 1/10th of a second) any movement your subject makes will produce ‘motion blur’.

Shutter speed: Choose fast to freeze and slow to smooth

Another thing to consider is how much light you want in your exposure.  A longer shutter speed lets more light into your camera, on the other hand fast shutter speeds reduce the light hitting the sensor. Too much light will over expose the image, but not enough light will leave your image dark and under exposed.
To help balance out your exposure while shooting in Manual mode, try adjusting your ISO settings and your aperture size to control the light.
Shutter Priority Mode is allows you to set just your shutter speed and the camera chooses other settings (like Aperture) to ensure the shot is well exposed. It’s a very handy mode to play with as it ensures you get the movement effect that you’re after but also generally well exposed shots. 
For super long exposures, you can reduce the light further by using an ND filter.



2. Panning

The basic idea behind 'panning' is that you pan your camera along with the moving subject before you shoot, so you get a sharp subject but a blurred background to give the image a feeling of movement and speed. It’s particularly useful for capturing fast moving subjects like a car, running pet, cyclist etc.Panning seems to work best with subjects moving in a straight line parallel to the camera or so that you can predict where they are moving to.
  • Select a slightly slower shutter speed than you normally do. 
  • Position yourself in a place where your view of the subject will not be obstructed by anyone or anything else.
  • Check the background. If there are distracting shapes or colors it could prove to be distracting in the final image. 
  • As the subject approaches track it with your cameraFor extra support, use a monopod or tripod with a panning head.
  • Use your focus tracking function to let the camera do the focusing for you as you track your subject by half pressing the shutter button (depending upon it’s speed and whether it can keep up with the subject). If your camera doesn’t have fast enough auto focus you’ll need to pre-focus your camera on the spot that you’ll end up releasing the shutter.
  • Keep panning momentarily after you take the shot to allow for any lag your camera may have, so you will have a smooth shot.

3. Slow Sync Flash
This function sets your camera to shoot with both a longer shutter speed as well as firing the flash. This means you get a sharp image of your main subject as well as some ambient light from the background and foreground.Your camera might let you manually set exposure length and flash strength but on many compact cameras it’s preset as an automatic shooting mode, often called ‘night mode’ where the camera selects the slower shutter speed and flash strength for you.

If your camera lets you control the flash manually, it might give you a couple of options, either 'rear curtain sync' or 'front curtain sync'. These basically let you decide when to fire your flash during the long exposure.
Rear curtain tells your camera to fire at the end of the exposure. When you press the shutter the exposure begins, light hits your sensor or film and just before the shutter closes your flash fires, freezing your subject, but leaving a trail from where the movement started.
Front curtain is the opposite. the flash will fire when press the shutter, then your shutter will remain open for the duration of the selected exposure. The movement of the subject will be captured after the freeze.

Both techniques can give your image a real impact.


4. Zooming

You can add motion by zooming (physically rotating) your lens during the exposure. Use an exposure of around 1 second, or even longer to make it easier. A tripod is important for a shutter speed like this. Zoom in and lock focus on the main part of your subject first. Back button focus is very helpful here if you have that capability on your camera. As the focal length changes, it can result in an abstract effect, and is great fun to experiment with.

Enjoy this challenge, keep experimenting. Upload your results to our enter our challenge. We'd love to see what you come up with!






5 tips to get you started...


1. WHAT YOU NEED

  • Camera with manual settings, including 'Bulb'
  • Sturdy tripod (that can handle wind)
  • Cable release or remote with timer/lock
  • Extra battery if possible, because long exposures and cold weather decrease battery power
  • Lens hood to avoid peripheral light leaks
  • A timer (like on a phone) if not on your remote
  • Small flashlight, headlamp (or phone) so you can see what you're doing
  • Powerful flashlight with adjustable beam for painting, or for 'steel wool' photography: steel wool, gloves, string, a metal whisk and a lighter (take extreme care with this technique, it can be dangerous)
  • Warm clothes, preferably black

2. SET UP YOUR CAMERA
  • Shoot in RAW if you can
  • Set your White balance to suit your light source. Try 'Tungsten' or 'Flourescent'
  • Set your focus to 'one shot' focus, you don't want it to 'track'
  • Attach your camera to tripod and turn off 'IS' or 'VR' on the lens 
  • Set the shooting mode to 'Bulb' and your exposure mode to 'Manual'
  • Keep your ISO at 100 or 200 if you can, to minimize noise
  • Aperture: start off at f5.6 and then adjust it when testing your exposure to control your depth of field
  • Shutter Speed is best on 'Bulb' so you can expose longer than 30seconds
  • Take a test shot, and make sure your exposure's a little on the dark side 

3. FIND A LOCATION & SUBJECT

Try to get away from 'light pollution'. A bright full moon or city lights will interfere with your light painting, because your camera will record any light entering the lens.
Do you want to 'paint' around a subject? Or do you want to paint patterns? Look for a subject that will look interesting 'painted'.
If you want to try 'steel wool' photography (pictured) you will need to be sure to find a location near water, like the beach, and far from dry grass or anything that could catch fire. It would be good to get the needed permission before you start.

4. FOCUS
Get a buddy to light up your subject with the flashlight and focus your lens. Once you've set the focus, use your focus lock feature to keep it there, or focus manually and don't touch the lens once it's set.

5. PAINT
If you're ready to shoot, turn off your headlamp or phone light, and be ready with your light source for painting. Hit the shutter button on your cable release and lock it there while someone times the exposure. Because you're wearing black, you can move in and out of the scene as you 'paint'. Keep moving with the light to avoid bright hot spots. Adjust the beam on the flashlight to change the effect, and create interest. The closer the light source is to the subject, the sharper the 'painting' lines will be.

Once you've taken your first shot, keep experimenting. Share your results with us. We'd love to see what you come up with!





What is Reflection Photography?

Reflection photography is when you use reflective surfaces to create an artistic image of a scene. Reflections come in many different forms, from dramatic landscapes to detailed macro. So here are a few basic techniques to help you achieve better results when photographing reflections.

You will need:

  • Camera.
  • Wide Angle Lens (recommended but not necessary). Technically, any lens will work for reflection photography. A wide angle lens will allow you to capture more in your image. A zoom lens or a prime lens may be better suited depending on what you plan to photograph, so it’s a good idea to keep a couple of different lenses with you.
  • Tripod (for shooting in low light or with slow shutter speeds).
  • Shutter Release Cable (for long exposures).
  • A polarizing filter will help you to control the amount of surface shine from the water.
  • A graduated neutral density filter will help ensure that the sky isn't overexposed. It also allows longer shutter speeds, so water in your scene is smoother.
  • Props are also a great way to add your own creative twist. For example, a glass orb can be added to create a spherical reflection. Antique mirrors are also a great prop to bring a whimsical vibe into your images.

Depth of field

Select a high f-number such as f/11 or higher, the way the eye perceives the subject at this depth of field will enhance the reflection effect.


Focus

Try focusing on the subject, then trying focusing on the reflection. This can produce quite varied results and will affect how much attention you draw to the reflection. Try getting in close and crop to details of a scene. 


Light

Think about the angle of the light and how it affects the reflection. Explore different viewpoints to find the angle at which the reflection is most effective.
When looking for reflections in water and landscapes, go when the light is at it's best, either early in the day before the sun is high in the sky, or in the evening as the sun is setting. Experiment with slightly longer shutter speeds to smooth out the water.


Scout out The Right Location

The most common reflective surface is water, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to only water-based locations. Reflection photography can be created anywhere. It can be inspiring to take a moment to look for reflective surfaces.
Arrive at the location early enough to check out cloud coverage and the sun’s position. Since reflection photography is all about the light reflecting off of objects, these are important aspects to take into consideration before shooting. Observe your surroundings for any polished surfaces that catch the eye. Once you uncover a good location, take the time to view it from different angles and find the best approach.


Shiny surfaces

There are plenty of reflective surfaces that we encounter in everyday life such as mirrors, glass, metal, ceramic tiles and even varnished wood. 
Shiny surfaces like these don't absorb light, so if using artificial lighting, think carefully about the amount and angle of the light on your surface. You may want to experiment with lighting from above or behind your subject. This also applies to the use of flash, which will probably be limited as the light will often just bounce straight back at you.
Check that your surface is clear of scratches and fingerprints, especially when focusing in on detail within the reflection. Flat surfaces are easier to work with, as they will give more complete reflections.


Puddles

Puddles are often overlooked, but are usually shallow and found in protected areas, which means that they are likely to hold smooth, still water. They also provide a variety of options for subjects and compositions.
The trick with capturing amazing reflection is to get down low to get as close to the surface of the puddle as possible. This also makes small puddles look bigger. Use your hand or a tripod to steady your camera and keep it out of contact with the water. 
Wet roadways or stone paving and pillars often become highly reflective when wet. Be on the look out just after it rained for some unique reflection opportunities.


The variety of potential shots is huge with reflections, get out there and explore the places you go daily and capture them!

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