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Live Show Recap: Black and White

Hey there! Last night’s show was unofficially sponsored by Jameson and it was a blast. We looked at your black and white (and monochrome) shots and got some amazing ones. Thanks for watching and (attempting) to submit. If you want to know why you’d convert to black and white, read my blog post on it here.

We get into the photo reviews quickly, starting here:

  • street motion
  • “cash me off guard” No, Tony.
  • boots on the ground
  • portrait
  • “I don’t know what he’s about to do, but it’s gonna be dangerous, right?”

Happy birthday Kyle Wolfe! And wow, Rod, thanks for the booze! We need to do things that upset people and make them send us alcohol more often.

A bit of photo news:

  • you can post multiple photos on Instagram in one post
  • Sigma announced 4 new art lenses which we’re excited about

Over to me for some questions:

  • how do you feel about color photography for street photos? Totally fine.
  • any technical advantage to shooting in b&w verses converting in post? Not technically, but there’s an advantage to doing it to teach yourself to see in black and white.

Back to your photos:

  • sport portrait
  • Chelsea coined “the devil’s candy”
  • “I don’t like people being happy in tunnels
  • guy on a cliff
  • “you don’t feel like there was just too much white in there?” “I feel that about a lot of things, but not this picture.”
  • much talk about the coliseum and aqua battles
  • stair case
  • “damn, sexual selection at work”
  • snow
  • selfie
  • pigeons
  • Tony trolls the nerds
  • scared baby¬†“she had a scary dream about a wiener dog” “it’s a common nightmare”
  • bridge

Time for chit-chat! Our favorite part of the show where you are mean, or correct us a bunch, or say something dumb and we reply for some reason.

  • that’s great, Howard. Also, “nit-pickery.”
  • very disappointed in baby Jesus
  • married or brother and sister? Why not both?
  • “but unfortunately he chose a country that hasn’t existed for several decades.” “That sounds like a terrible, creepy way to separate yourself from your brain.”

Time to review portfolios! Justin picks one for us. “Dr. Fear Co.” Good, good golden-doodle. Good layout, just flesh it out a bit. Put a name and photo of yourself on the contact page.

Then Greg Noel’s portfolio. Lovely shots, nice layout, very well done! Take out the repeats, get rid of the watermarks. Canadian mummers.

Okay, at minute 48 the audio and video go wildly out of sync for some reason! So I’m going to end this recap here, but to make up for it, we’ll be doing a bonus live show on Monday! So keep an eye out for that. Thanks folks!

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Beginner Photography: Black and White

Hey there! This week’s live show topic (and thus my blog topic) is “black and white” photography. I would say that I convert my shots to black and white about half of the time, which I think is more than most people. This week I went out briefly to shoot with black and white in mind, which isn’t usually the case. Generally I end up converting to B&W for a number of different reasons, which I’ll detail below.

First I’ll direct you to watch this video which is relevant to all photography, but is particularly important for black and white photography:

So here are the reasons you might choose to convert your images to black and white:

  • the focus of your subject is a shape or form created by the elements of the picture
  • the colors or background of your photo are distracting from the subject
  • you want a timeless or classic feel to your shot
  • the colors in the image are naturally desaturated and the color adds nothing to it

So I’ve converted to black and white for all of these reasons. I went out and took a few shots while I was at my parents house in Connecticut this weekend and specifically kept an eye out for interesting shadows since there was still lots of snow on the ground and the sun was high.

This first shot is an example of the form being the focus, the tree and the shadow of the tree:

f/3.5, 1/1250th of a second for some reason, ISO 200

 

This shot is also about the form of the shadow, and additionally there was very little color in the image to start as I was shooting a black dog on a grey road:

f/3.5, 1/640th, ISO 200

 

This shot I decided to edit for the mood I wanted. While the sun was high and it was a nice day, I was more interested in the bare trees, the stark snow, and the old wrought iron chairs and table. I decided to convert to black and white, add some grain, and some vignetting to focus attention on the subject and make it look like a dated shot:

f/3.5, 1/1250th, ISO 200

 

While these are certainly not my most successful black and white images (see my posts on shadows¬†and spooky for my favorites) I think they are decent examples of why you’d choose to convert select shots to black and white.

I look forward to seeing everyone’s shots this week, and don’t forget to check your dang histograms!

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Beginner Photography: Storytelling

This week’s subject is storytelling, in other words, being able to convey a story in a single image. I’m gonna call this project a big ole failure for me, right off the bat. I mean, I had a few concepts and I executed them, but not particularly well.¬†

I enlisted my husband to model for me, and although he’s easy on the eyes, he’s not much of an actor ūüôā My idea, knowing this post would go up on Valentine’s Day, was to have him proposing. The focus would be on him and the ring, with me out of focus in the foreground. I set the camera up on a tripod, positioned Eric where I wanted him holding up the ring and focused on that. I set the timer to a 12 second delay so I could get into the shot. I had the camera on aperture priority, then set my aperture to f/3.5, the lowest I could. I knew the room was a bit dim, but I didn’t have any more light to turn on! So the exposure wound up being 1/10th of a second and the ISO was 1600. It wound up being an incredibly noisy shot, and the focus missed.¬†

I think the story still conveys, even if it¬†technically isn’t great

We gave that a few tries, but that one turned out the best. Next I thought we could stage a fight. We only tried this one once, because Eric couldn’t keep from smiling, which was adorable, but unhelpful.

 

f/4.3, 1/4 second, ISO 1600

 

After I gave up on our acting abilities, I decided to shoot our dog doing what he does best, vigilantly staring out our front window. He does look to be waiting for something, but I could have used an additional element like someone outside the window for context.

 

f/4.7, 1/10th, ISO 1600

I did a bit of post processing on these, just cropping and converting to black and white, then playing with the contrast. I tried some noise reduction, but it didn’t do a whole lot of good.¬†

So overall, not my best. This camera’s low-light capabilities are killing me! The noise is so distracting. I would have shot in a different location, but it was wet outside and there is nowhere in our house with better light. I’ve got a better example of storytelling in my shadows post here. If you want to see some incredibly technical and conceptual photography, check out Erkki’s project here that was featured in our book, Stunning Digital Photography.

I love more conceptual projects, even if I didn’t get the most creative this time around. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with this week!¬†

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Beginner Photography: Sports

Hey y’all! This week’s topic was sports, which, ugh. Not my interest, not my topic. I did watch the Super Bowl though, but I was told photographing the screen wouldn’t count.

Being that it’s winter, I didn’t have a ton of options for shooting sports outdoors, which is what I wanted to do. Indoor sports are incredibly difficult to shoot with it’s weird lighting conditions (read some tips on it here,) and I would have felt strange just showing up to some random event. As it turned out, I was even weirder. I decided to go shoot at Kelly Drive, which is a trail along the Wissahickon River in Philly where people go to run and bike year round. There’s a section of it called Boathouse Row where the colleges keep their boats for crew, so I attempted to shoot a few boats on the water as well. Turns out people who are exercising don’t like being photographed. I was as stealthy as I could be, using my little Olympus with the back screen flipped out, but they always noticed me. No one said anything though.

I have very little experience shooting action, so this was a bit rough. I used the focus trap technique Tony demonstrates here:

I shot in shutter priority at 1/160th for runners, and a bit higher for bicyclists. I wanted to show a bit of motion, but freeze most of the subject. Here’s what I came up with:

They spotted me.

f/5, 1/160th, ISO 250

 

I wish they were facing me, but I couldn’t capture them once they passed.

f/6.3, 1/160th, ISO 200

 

I had a really hard time with the crop for this one. I shot wider than this, but the women got lost. Not sure if I did well by cropping into the bicyclist.

f/4.5, 1/160th, ISO 200

 

Three in a row.

f/5.6, 1/160th, ISO 200

 

¬†I obviously did some editing to these shots, as they’re all in black and white. The weather was grey and most workout gear is bright, plus all the background made the shots very busy. Going black and white eliminates some of that and draws focus to the subjects. I did a bit of dodging and burning in Lightroom and sloppily cloned out a car or two in Photoshop (follow those links to see tutorials on each.)

So these aren’t the most compelling images. I would have liked to shoot some contact sports, but hopefully I can try that once it’s warm out again. Let me know how I did and what I could have done to improve!¬†

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Beginner Photography: Animals

Hey folks! This might feel like deja vu for some of you, as I photographed my dog a few months back here. But who gets sick of seeing dogs? A monster, that’s who.

It’s winter, so my backdrop wasn’t quite as vibrant as last time I shot in our back yard, but we still have green ivy back there. Hungry is a mostly terrible model, because if I try and get down to his level he climbs into my lap. Then when I stand up, he puts his ears back and looks guilty, so that’s mostly what he looks like in these shots. I kind of love shooting him from above, though. The perspective makes him look so tiny.

I use the lowest aperture (f/3.5 on my micro 4/3 Olympus, which isn’t really low, see video below)¬†on aperture priority, so the camera chooses the shutter speed and ISO for me.

Pretty sure that has to do with crop factor, which you can learn about here:

So here’s what I wound up with:

Look at that seal pup

f/3.5, 1/160th, ISO 200

 

I got his eye in focus!

f/3.5, 1/200th, ISO 200

 

This shot isn’t technically as good, but I love the mood with the backlighting and urban backdrop.

f/3.5, 1/1000th (why?!) ISO 200

 

I also attempted to photograph my cat, Frank. He is old and barely opens his eyes. He was in the windowsill while it was snowing, so I wanted to capture all that, but was not successful. It was too bright out to capture the snow while also exposing properly for him. When he was sitting still he didn’t give me much of an expression, and when he was moving he was frantically trying to get me to pet him, and was just pacing back and forth (don’t worry, I gave him many pats). I even shot manual to try to get the exposure and shutter speed I wanted, but just couldn’t nail it.

 

Refusing to make eye contact

f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 200

 

Giving himself head rubs.

f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 200

 

I honestly don’t have much to teach you here, except that animals are uncooperative models. What did you shoot this week? What could I do to make my pets better models? Let me know in the comments, and I look forward to seeing your fur-children this week!

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Beginner Photography: Natural Framing

Phew, this project was a lot harder than I expected. So natural framing is shooting through an object or structure to frame your subject. I had an idea of where I wanted to shoot, and one day to wrangle my family to get outside and do it. The whole day was clear and blue, but I wanted to wait until right before sunset to go out and shoot. So, naturally, it suddenly got very cloudy and my plans were dashed, but we went out anyway. We went hiking to a spot I knew had a cave I could shoot out of, and then to a spot with rows of overpasses covered in graffiti.

Most¬†of these shots wound up noisy and I missed focus most of the time. While I like these shots because my family is in them, they certainly aren’t my best.

I use an Olympus E-M10 with a Lumix 14-42mm f/3.5-f/5.6, which has proven to be pretty terrible in low-light. I shot, as usual, in aperture priority with auto-ISO.

Here’s what I came up with:

 1/80th, f/3.5, ISO 250

 

1/60th, f/3.5, ISO 640 

 

1/13th, f/3.9, ISO 1600

 

 1/80th, f/3.5, ISO 500

 

I chose to go black and white with all of these shots because the framing was the most important element. I edited following the “top tip” of course:

It was particularly difficult to adjust the exposure on these shots since I was shooting from a dark place into a bright place or vice-versa. I used an adjustment brush to edit the bright areas separate from the darker areas. If you haven’t gotten it already, our Lightroom book is super helpful for all of these editing tips.

So did any of these work for you? What ideas have you come up with for natural framing? I’m excited to see everyone’s attempts¬†this week!

 

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Beginner Photography: Slice of Life

Happy 2017! I’ve been sick for all of it, plus a few days so far, so I didn’t go out shooting this week. But I have plenty of photos to choose from for this topic. “Slice of life” might be my favorite subject matter for photography. I’ve always preferred shooting people and especially candids. I like capturing a brief, fleeting moment in time; an expression, a movement, an interaction. Posed portraits just don’t give you that, they are people’s attempts at looking their best, at being still.¬†

I’m not sure there’s a way to teach this topic, really. Besides using whatever camera settings are appropriate for your setting, the only thing to do is to observe and wait. I covered street photography here, which gives you some tips on how to shoot unobtrusively. For all candid photography, I use live view mode, and flip out the screen on my E-M10 so that people can’t tell when I’m shooting.¬†If you’re shooting strangers, they tend to think you’re not shooting them, but something else in the scene. If you’re taking photos before and after they appear in frame, they’ll assume they aren’t the subject. If you’re shooting your friends and family, or at an event, just shoot excessively. At first people will be stiff, knowing they’re being photographed, but they’ll loosen up once they get used to you there.

Here are some of my favorite “slice of life” shots from the past year:

 

Shot on my Samsung smartphone, so the settings were automatic. 1/390th, f/1.9, ISO 40.

I love her expression and body language,¬†her gaze bringing you to his, which leads you down. You even get some context of where we are by the pamphlet he’s holding.

 

Shot with the Olympus E-M10 at 1/400th, f/11, ISO 200. Not sure what I was thinking for the settings on this one, my shutter speed and f/stop were higher than necessary.

My first time shooting California surfers in the wild.

 

Shot with the E-M10 at 1/250th, f/3.5 at ISO 200. 

This feels like a perfect childhood moment to me. The expressions of anticipation, the motion of the boy in front. The car in the background is unfortunate, but that’s city living for you.

 

Shot with the E-M10 at 1/250th, f/4.5 at ISO 200. 

I shot with the sun behind her, with a shutter speed to freeze her but get the motion of her hand and the water.

 

Shot with the 5D Mark III and a 24-70 f/2.8 at 1/60th, f/4 and ISO 1250.

I love the joy and energy in this shot. The bride seeing her friend’s crazy dance, the groom shaking hands.

 

Do these shots work for you? It’s hard to objectively look at your own photos sometimes, especially if they’re of people you know and love.

Do you enjoy shooting candids? What do you do to capture a specific moment? Join us for the live show this Thursday to see more “slice of life” shots.

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Beginner Photography: Not Wildlife

Soooo, this weeks’¬†live show topic is wildlife. Thing is, we did wildlife a month ago and I wrote a blog post on my attempt then.

Wildlife is a near-impossible task if you are not a dedicated wildlife photographer. It takes time, patience, and the proper gear. None of which I have! I went on a hike with my family this weekend and did not come across any wildlife besides an errant squirrel or a far-away bird. There were a lot of dogs on the trail, mine included, so what little wildlife may inhabit the area avoided us. So I took photos of what I had, which is my family and a beautiful setting.

For whatever reason, every shot I liked I wound up converting to black and white. My family was wearing bright colors which were distracting, and even though there were some nice fall colors in the trees, the sky and water both looked murky. 

I focused on the backlighting of the sun behind the kids when we were at the stream, which cast some interesting shadows. I think I was able to capture some of the joy of a warm late-fall day, moments of peace in a tumultuous time.

Trail shadows 

 

I cannot figure out how to separate my black dog from the background

 

I love the ripple in the water and the motion of her hand

 

A pause in motion

 

Soft glow

 

Girl in flight

 

I’m gonna be honest, this did not feel like a successful shoot. But I had a hell of a week and this was a moment of brightness. Please let me know what you would have done differently with these shots.¬†

Also, I’ll be in CT starting tomorrow, and¬†I’m be going out to shoot some real wildlife with Chelsea, Tony, and Justin! So I’ll have some actual wildlife work to show for myself. Keep an eye out!

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Beginner Photography: Spooky

Guys! This was a fun one. I paid my daughter, Eloise, in candy to come out with me and take some photos, because kids are creepy as heck. Styling, setting, and mood are very important for setting a spooky scene. I put her in a vintage dress and hair bow and put brown eye shadow around her eyes and on her cheek bones to make her look emaciated. I also put cover-up on her lips to make her look paler. She wound up looking quite ghostly.

I had a place in mind to shoot, a condemned church in our neighborhood that would fit the old-timey vibe of her costume. We went out around sunset so that it would be a bit darker out to suit the mood. I would have shot later, but I don’t have an external flash and my camera isn’t the best in low light situations. You’ll see that the images came out pretty noisy, luckily it didn’t much matter with the mood of the images.¬†

The one thing I regret is not putting her in different shoes. The shoes she wore are really modern and I had intended on having her take them off, but then didn’t want her standing in sticks with her bare feet. The styling is so important though! Something modern looking in a photo that is meant to look antique will take the viewer out of it. Pay attention to detail!¬†Eloise is not great at smiling for the camera, so she was kind of perfect for this shoot. There are so many old buildings in the area that served for great settings. Here’s what I came up with:

I positioned her with the date of the building to add context. I also used a radial filter to blur the area around her for mood. I converted all the images to black and white and pulled down the reds and oranges to lighten her skin. The dress wound up far brighter than the rest of the scene, so I pulled down the highlights.

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I loved the little chair sitting by the building, along with the slope of the ground. I positioned Eloise coming towards the camera and nearest the right of the frame to have her uncomfortably entering the viewers space.

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I wanted a shot of her in front of the Danger sign, although it messes up the timelessness of the scene a bit, the signs are obviously current. But look at that vacant stare!

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This is probably my favorite. The leading lines up to her, the darkness in the trees behind and her creepy stance.

 

How’d I do? Did I successfully creep you out?¬†

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Beginner Photography: Street

Hey y’all. Here’s the second of my two-parter of my trip to San Francisco. I went knowing that the topic of street photography would be covered a few weeks later, so I made it a point to take some shots I wouldn’t normally. I’ve been shooting with the Olympus E-M10 and a Lumix 14-42mm 3.5-5.6¬†which is a good, discreet little set up for street shots. The screen in the back flips out, so you can take shots without looking like you are.

Street photography is a very loose concept. All it needs to entail is a person and the space they exist in. It is often candid, but street portraits are also a subset of street photography. (Street portraits take a boldness I don’t quite have yet, but maybe I’ll tackle that another time.) Now, the fact that street photography is vague doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a lot of consideration to¬†bring a photo of people from a snapshot to an image of interest. Here are a few ways to do that.

First: Backdrop

I found that scouting out a good backdrop and sitting at an outdoor cafe was a good way to stealthily get shots of passers-by, like this one:

I had a hard time getting people’s faces in focus. I was more concerned about not getting spotted when I started out, but got more bold as I went.

You can take photos of your backdrop before a person walks into frame, and then just keep shooting once they walk past. Most of the time they won’t notice you’re shooting at all, or if they do and pause to not walk into their shot, you can just wave them through.¬†

Second: Interaction 

One thing that makes people an interesting subject is their interactions with each other. Try to capture a moment between people, be it a simple conversation or a touch.

My next spot was at the beach. Everyone takes pictures at the beach! And I was so obviously a tourist, wearing a leather jacket and jeans, carrying a camera. This time I took a ton of shots, and did better with my focusing.

So many great looking surfers

That can also mean interaction with you, the photographer. If your subject notices you shooting and you still feel comfortable doing so, keep shooting! That connection can make your photo.

I wanted a picture of the van, but got these guys instead

This was shot with my phone, but I loved her expression and the¬†fact that the man she’s interacting with doesn’t seem to notice.

Third: Light, Shadow, Shape

These are what make compelling images in any genre. Interesting light, the play of shadows and leading lines draw the eye where you want it to go in the frame.

It wasn’t until going through my photos afterwards that I realized how many were facing the sun, which means I got a lot of silhouettes and shadows

I loved the line in the sand bringing you to the fisherman and his fishing rod leading off frame

 

I feel pretty good about this. Some feel a bit more landscape than street, because I took a lot of distance shots instead of getting in their space, but I think I’ll do better with that the more I practice. I had a lot of fun shooting street shots, I wasn’t sure I would. I need to practice on nailing focus and getting in closer, but I think this is a good start.¬†

What other tips do you have for shooting street shots? What makes a street shot compelling to you?

Our live show this week will be with street photographer Andy Shields, whose work I love. He does amazing things with street photography. You can read his beginner blog post here and make sure to tune into the show on Thursday at sdp.io/live.