Shadow Play

Sometimes capturing shadows is just a happy accident, sometimes the photographer chooses to include them as an element of the composition, and sometimes our subject has chosen to make the shadow  more of the focal point than they themselves are.

shadow girls


4 Golden Hour Photography Tips

Boys in Dandelions

If you’ve read much about outdoor portraits, you know a lot of us photographers love to shoot during the “golden” or “magic” hour, just before sunset (or right after sunrise).  For practicalities sake, these tips are going to be talking about the hour at the end of the day, not the hour when most people are sleeping…considering that today the morning golden hour would have started at 5:40 am.

If you are wanting to capture this gorgeous light yourself, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1.  Look up the sunset time for the date and location you have planned.  The Time and Date website is great for this, or just type it in your Google search box.  Schedule your shoot 1.5 to 1 hour prior to this time.  In the summer, this is going to be fairly late for families with young children.  Late spring and fall may work better for you.
  2. If your camera allows you to set your white balance, and your subject is between you and the sunset, try starting with a cloudy setting or a temp around 7000 Kelvin.  I know this is somewhat confusing…the sunset is more like 3000 Kelvin, but the light hitting your subject is coming from behind you and is likely a darkening blue sky.Child portraits
  3. Use a reflector to brighten your subject.  This will allow you (or your camera) to expose for your subject while still retaining some detail in the bright skies behind them.  If the sun is still fairly high, position your subject in front of trees or grasses to help block some of the light and create a soft and pretty background.Toddler Portraits in Waterloo, IA
  4. Allow some time after sunset to capture silhouette images while the sky is still streaked with color.  Expose for the sky to throw your subject completely into shadows.Tree Silhouette

Reverse Lens Macro

closeup photo of zipper

My big camera has been either in transit or at the Canon Service Center for over a week now, and I am really missing it!  I’ve been making do with my older camera body for my everyday pictures, but a couple of shoots I wanted to do are on hold for now.  While I’m waiting, I’ve been playing around a bit with some more creative projects.

This week’s prompt for the P52 photography project I have been following is Macro.  I don’t have a true “macro” lens with 1:1 magnification (another thing for the gear wishlist), but an interesting way to try macro is by turning a lens backwards and holding it up to your camera lens mount and manually focusing on your subject by moving either forward or back.  I would NOT use the un-attached lens method outdoors, as your camera’s sensor is exposed and could get dust spots very easily.  There are adaptors available to make it possible to attach the lens reversed if you want this option.

Grape Hyacinth Flower Macro Macro-Photography-1 Brownie Junior Camera Macro

I would guess that macro is one of the most time intensive genres of photography.  Some people find it relaxing and almost meditative as you can find beauty in the construction of even mundane subjects.  For me the tiny little tweaks to be made in lighting, arranging, and working with such a shallow depth of field were a little frustrating with my improvised set up, but I can see how it could be a fun style to learn with more specialized equipment.

Daffodil Bloom Macro

Here are a few tips in case you decide to try your hand at some macro photography.

– Shoot macro outdoors on a very still day, as even a slight breeze will move your subject in/out of your focal plane. 

– Be conscious of your shooting stance and how you are supporting your camera.  Tuck your elbows against your body or support them on a sturdy surface.  Take a breath in and hold it while you press the shutter.

Indoors, try using a tripod and an additional light source to accommodate the narrow apertures and slower shutter speeds that are often necessary for macro shooting.

– Don’t forget about composition, perspective, and lighting; check the frame for distracting color if any background is visible,  watch where the shadow of your camera/lens is falling, and experiment with subject placement in the frame.

Crackle Glass Vase Macro

And a reminder to myself…choose a time when you will be uninterrupted, take time to set up the area you are working in so that everything is sturdy, and keep a towel nearby because of course you are going to spill at least one vase of water =/.

Tips to help you capture Lifestyle Images

First, you are going to have to get over feeling awkward pulling out your camera in public!  This is really easy if you are using your phone, because everyone is snapping pictures on the go these days and the cameras on phones are getting better and better!  I prefer to use my big camera, just because I can’t stand to give up control over my settings and my phone takes terrible pictures indoors, but even for a quick shot with your phone, keep the following in mind and you will have images that tell a clearer story and have more personality.

kids playing at library with bookshelves behind them

  1. Shoot wide – this just means, back up (or use a wide-angle lens) and include the setting in your photo.  This gives the viewer a sense of the place, the reason for the activity, or a reminder of a favorite location.  Make sure it is still clear to the viewer what the main subject is.
  2. Instead of shooting wide, include something in the image that is unique to the setting so that the viewer can make an inference about where you are.
  3. Capture your subject involved in an activity.  This could be crafting, reading, playing a sport, or laughing with a friend.  This will give the viewer a sense of who the subject is.boys face framed in bead maze toy
  4. Be patient.  Find a great vantage point and wait a few minutes to catch action, a decisive moment, or a strong emotion.  This could be turning a page, shooting a basket, laying the last piece of the puzzle in place, a belly laugh, or a look of determination.
  5. Capture details too.  These can either stand alone, or add to the story set up in your earlier images.  Think paint covered hands, art supplies or toys, an award won, or the final result of an activity.

Snowy Scenes & Exposure Compensation

boy in snowsuit walking in snowy woods

If you’re in Iowa, you know that the last few weeks we have had some beautiful snowy days (followed by some really cold weather)! I wanted to share a tip with you that will help you capture that snowy landscape or fun images of your kiddos enjoying the white stuff. One problem with shooting a scene with so much white, is that the camera expects the elements in a scene to average out to grey. If it looks at your snowy scene with large amounts of white and a few bits of color, it is going to darken those bright areas to make the average tone grey unless you tell it to do differently.

How can you do that? Most SLR cameras and many point and shoot cameras have an exposure compensation button marked with a +/-,  that will allow you to override the exposure (brightness) that the camera has chosen if you are in an auto mode. A good practice is to set this to +1, see how it looks to you and adjust up or down accordingly. If you don’t have exposure compensation, see if you have a scene mode for beaches or snow (my little Olympus Tough has this). Experiment with this and let me know what you think!