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Beginner Photography: Self-Portraits

Man, what is more intimidating that taking self-portraits? I love a good selfie, but it really is a delicate balance between narcissism and¬†self-esteem crushing reality. You want to look good, but you also don’t want to look like you know you look good, but then you have to look at a million pictures of yourself vamping and think “I look like an idiot and also I have terrible skin.” Or is that just me?

T&C have a bunch of free portrait tutorials here that are super helpful. Especially this one on using natural light:

Being aware of your light source is probably the most important part of self-portraits. Face the light, understand how it casts shadows.

Anyway, here’s what I did. Put on¬†basic makeup and a black dress,¬†the simpler styling the better. I decided to take my shots in my bedroom as it has good natural light and simple decor. I tried a few different spots in the room and so many different moods.¬†

I set my Olympus E-M10 up on a tripod and used Olympus’ mobile app to control it from my phone, which is so incredibly useful. I shot in aperture priority with the lowest aperture to blur the background, but that made it pretty hard to nail focus on my eye. I also set my ISO to the lowest I could because my shots always end up noisy, but that wound up making my shutter speeds pretty slow which I didn’t realize until looking at them now. I really need to pay more attention to my settings.

f/4.2, 1/3 sec, ISO 100

 

f/3.5, 1/6th, ISO 100

 

Who would I be if I didn’t go spooky?

f/3.5, 1/6th, ISO 100

 

f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 100

Real talk: I did quite a bit of post-processing on these. My makeup was a mess and my skin was looking rough, so I did quite a bit of smoothing, you can probably tell. This page of Lightroom tutorials is integral. 

So I don’t know how “creative” these self-portraits are, but they’re mostly non-traditional. I think the last one with the backlighting is my favorite. Whattya think?

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Beginner Photography: Color

Color! The possibilities for this topic are endless. I had grand ideas of what I wanted to do, but limited resources. I had visions of bold lipstick, bold nails and a white background. Unfortunately I don’t have a studio to work with and I was my own model, so that limited my ideas a bit. But I was reminded of a shot I took for my food¬†project of a clementine on a teal plate.¬†

I decided to work with the same color palette and more fruit. I painted my nails teal and found the most aesthetically pleasing clementine and lemon in our fruit bowl and took them into my back yard for the natural light. Harsh light is good for fruit because you want the specular highlights, not the flat light that you may want for portraits.

I shot in aperture priority with a low aperture to blur the background as well as I could, and took a bunch of shots of my hand holding the fruit. Some in front of the wood decking and some in front of the ivy. 

f/3.6, 1/3200th, ISO 200

 

f/3.6, 1/3200th, ISO 200

 

Next I wanted to shoot my lips in a bright color with the green background and teal nails. This was a bit more challenging, but I finally downloaded the Olympus app for my phone so that I could control my camera from in front of it. Compared to Canon and Nikon’s apps, this one is great. I was able to focus and shoot myself from my phone while my camera was on the tripod in front of me.

f/4.5, 1/800th, ISO 200

 

f/4.5, 1/640th, ISO 200

 

f/4.5, 1/800th, ISO 200

 

For all of these images I tweaked the colors so that they were more saturated and complementary to each other. I edit my skin a ton because it looked terrible, and lightened it a bit so the colors would pop more.

Chelsea has a great tutorial on changing colors in Photoshop here that might help you out, although I did all my edits in Lightroom:

Do these work for you to convey color? I think the fruit shots do for sure, but I’m not sure about the self portraits. This was a really fun project for me, and I’m feeling more inspired than I have in a while.¬†

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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: 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.

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Beginner Photography: Travel

Hey friends! This weekend I got to do a whirlwind weekend in San Francisco for my friends wedding. This will essentially be a two-part post, since next week’s topic is street photography and I did quite a bit of that while I was there (get ready to see some surfers)!

This was my first time on the west coast, so there was a lot to capture. We stayed by the beach in a great, diverse little neighborhood. I also got to go out to the Muir Woods and hike among the redwoods. I hope I can do them some justice! I pulled a total rookie move and forgot to bring my Olympus battery charger. My camera made it through to the last day, halfway through my hike. Luckily I had my phone with me still, and wound up getting some of my better pictures with that.

I wish I’d taken some more time to just go out and shoot, but it was an action-packed weekend and I wasn’t about to take time away from friends and events to take pictures. I hope I can go back and spend some more time in the future, there’s a lot more I wanted to capture.

There was a lot of great street art and signage in the neighborhood

 

There’s that distant SF fog

 

This needs some editing,¬†the exposure on her doesn’t seem right

The water was so cold, these men are insane

 

I got this shot with my phone after my camera died

So those are some of my faves! I did minimal editing to them all to adjust exposure and make sure I had black and white points in each photo, as well as some cropping and straightening. I hope I captured the feel of the area (let me know, Kyle Wolfe)!

Help me out here, how’d I do? What would you change/add/leave out from these shots?

 

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Beginner Photography- Dogs!

Hello friends! As you know we don’t have a live show this week since T&C will be in Germany for Photokina! So I spent the week getting used to my little Olympus E-M10. I’m really enjoying this thing. I just shot whatever caught my eye around the house and tried to get used to all the buttons and dials.¬†

Yesterday was hazy and grey, but it made for some good light, so I followed my dog into the back yard to get some shots. He is not the most patient model. I did my best with a fast shutter speed and a liberal sprinkling of dog treats and “sit” commands to get what I could. And most of all, I took lots of shots. Here’s what I came up with.

f/3.5, 1/80th of a second, ISO 200

Meet Hungry! Shot at 1/80th of a second, f/3.5, ISO 200.

 

Same settings, handsomest boy.

 

Can you spot all my sloppy cloning and patching? 

 

I’m pretty proud of these, but I might be biased. He’s definitely a one-note model, we really need to work on his expression.¬†

Black dogs are hard to photography because they just seem to swallow light, luckily he has some brown mixed in, so I think I was able to show some detail in his fur. The yard is a bit distracting, so I had to clone out some random things, and went black and white on a few of my edits to simplify. I did basic edits in Lightroom, adjusting the exposure based on my histogram to make sure I had some white points and black points. Then I brought them into Photoshop and used the content-aware-fill tool to get rid of some distracting twigs and backyard clutter. 

We did a live show on dog photography with our wonderfully talented friend Erkki Alvenmod a few months back that I found helpful, you might too! Have you photographed pets? What are your tips? 

 

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Beginner Photography: Cars

Hey guys! I don’t know anything about cars, but I know that my Honda Accord wouldn’t cut it for a compelling photo. So I did what every socially anxious lady in a city wants to¬†do, walked around my neighborhood looking for aesthetically pleasing cars and hoping no one thought I was a stalker.

Oh! And I have a real camera to use. T&C sent me an Olympus E-M10 with a little Lumix 14-42mm lens. It is such a cute, manageable little camera, I look forward to shooting with it more.

Thankfully T&C have a video on shooting at a car show, which was helpful for shooting in the busy environment of a city street. You can watch that tutorial here. I used a low aperture to focus close and blur my background, focused on interesting shapes and forms, and went black and white when I needed to declutter the background. Here’s what I came up with!

p9110009final

I did some basic edits to adjust the exposure and converted it to B&W to keep focus on the car and not on the background

 

Something about this shot doesn’t quite do it for me. The shapes are nice, I like the shadows on the hood, but it’s not quite compelling enough.

 

This one strikes me a little better, but maybe I just don’t like cars?

 

I missed focus on the Mustang logo, but I liked this license plate repping my neighborhood

 

I wish I had a bit more subject matter to work with, I would have loved to find a car with interesting colors, or to be able to shoot an interior. I think I did okay with what I had though. Next time I’ll have to try out some HDR or bone up on my post processing skills to really make these pop.

I could try to shoot in harder light to get more shine off the cars, I went out at the golden hour, which is good for most things, but not cars! You want that gleam. I could have also taken a bit more risk, getting lower and closer to shoot at better angles, and from the street to get different backgrounds. I was a little tentative about looking like a weirdo in my neighborhood. But do what you can to get the best shot!

I’m going to watch the tutorial for my camera again to master my settings. I used touch to focus on the live view screen, but I wish I’d been able to focus more accurately.

How’d I do? What could I have done differently? Let me know in the comments below. See you for the live show on cars this week!