Photographing Groups

The more people you have in the photo, the smaller they appear, and the harder it is to see the individual faces. Ideally, you want to fill the camera frame with people both vertically and horizontally, and this is achieved with thoughtful positioning of the subjects. By doing this you can get closer to them and they appear larger and easier to see in the photos.

The first thing in any group is to have people stand at a 45-degree angle to the lens, rather than shoulder-to-shoulder facing the camera. This does several things. It allows you to get your subjects closer together, they appear slimmer, and it’s more professional-looking. And don’t have them all facing the same way unless they’re a ’60s Motown group. Better to have them turned toward center on both sides.

Small groups of three to eight can be taken standing together to produce a pleasing picture. They will fill the camera frame from top to bottom and side to side nicely.

Left to pose for a picture without direction from the photographer, a large group of subjects will usually stand shoulder to shoulder in a long line. This produces a photo with small people and excess space at the top and bottom of the frame.

Any group larger than eight or so should be positioned in levels, either by having some people in front sitting on chairs, or in back standing on steps. I like to have somewhere around 35-40% of the group in chairs and the rest standing behind, as this fills the frame better than an equal number of seated and standing subjects. Alternatively, you can have the first row standing in front and the second row on a step behind. Try to keep your rows close together, and try to position them so the people in the back row are standing between the two people in front of them, not directly behind them and hidden from camera view. A good way to check this is to ask each subject in back to make sure that they can see the camera with both eyes, thus ensuring that you’re not photographing just part of their head.

For a group of around 25, a good posing scheme would be some people on chairs, some standing behind, and some seated on the ground in front. Alternatively, you can have a second row standing on a step a level above those standing behind the chairs. The point is to fill the picture both side to side AND top to bottom.

The larger the group becomes, the more imperative it is that you find stairs to put your subjects on. Estimate how many rows you have to make in order to fill the frame top to bottom and side to side. The best approach is to have the subjects line up according to height. Start the bottom row with the shorter people, and end the top row with the tallest. This keeps a taller person from blocking a shorter one behind them. Subjects seated in bleachers or stadium-style seating is also very popular in schools and sporting venues, and can produce good results. You can follow the same principle as positioning on stairs.

If stairs or bleachers are not available, you have another option: setting the camera at an elevation above the crowd and shooting from above. This can be accomplished by using a ladder to get slightly above a small group, or a rooftop or balcony for a large group. Everyone can just look up, but you may still have to position people so taller subjects are to the rear of the shot.

Having someone to assist the photographer in positioning larger groups is extremely valuable. Only from dead-on camera position, that is, looking through the viewfinder, can you judge whether a face in the crowd will be fully visible or partly or totally blocked. Having an assistant position subjects while the photographer looks through the camera saves a lot of time and footwork.

The easy way to light is to just have everyone looking toward the sun, but the results can be disappointing. Your subjects will be squinting, they will have shadows under their eyes, and if it is hot they will be uncomfortable. The preferred method is to have the subjects’ backs to the sun, and to use flash to illuminate them. For a small single-row group, you can use your camera mounted flash. Multiple row groups will need a flash mounted on a camera bracket or light stand. This is to prevent shadows being thrown onto the people standing in the back rows. Large groups will need multiple flash units on tall stands. You can trigger them with remote receivers from your camera-mounted transmitter. Three flash units work well, one on the left, one on the right, and one next to the camera. And make sure they are high enough so they don’t produce shadows on the faces in the back rows.

You’ll also need a good lens hood to block the sunlight from hitting the lens and producing a flare. If the sun is low or you’re shooting directly into the sun, you may also need to position something above the camera to block the sunlight, and throw a shadow on the camera lens. This can be done with something as simple as a piece of cardboard or a magazine, or even an umbrella. There are also professional devices you can buy.

Composition in Landscape Photography

Main Subject

It should be self-evident that before shooting we should know exactly what our main subject is. We must do our best to convey the viewer’s attention to it, without distracting elements. This does not mean that we must exclude everything except the dominant feature in our image. In fact, we have three options:

  • Macro-photography. Show only the main subject and nothing else. This yields the advantage of no distractions to the viewer.
  • Intimate landscape. Show the main subject together with its neighborhoods to give it a spatial placing. This can be useful to make it easier to recognize the subject or to say something more about it.
  • Grand scenic. Show the subject immersed in its entire surrounding. This can be done if the surrounding is meaningful to the feelings you want to convey.

In any case, the viewer’s attention must be attracted to the main subject first, and only then he can wander around the rest of the picture. If the viewer’s eye does not go directly to the main subject as soon as he looks at the picture, the photographer has failed his mission.

Here are a few useful tips in order to emphasize the dominant feature. Put your main subject in the foreground so that it appears bigger. Typically, this requires a large depth of field. Another popular method is using converging lines toward the subject to direct the viewer’s eye where we want to. Putting the dominant feature against a contrasting colored background is effective, too. For instance, the main subject could be a splash of color against a complementary colored backdrop. Finally, a shape with a textureless background will serve the purpose of making the main subject figuring prominently. An example of this might be a flower in the desert sand.

Balance

In a photograph, more than one object or person is usually present. Each item in an image must be properly balanced. A balanced composition is pleasing to the eye because inspiring a sense of stability. Each item has a weight or visual importance that depends on the level of attraction for the viewer’s eye.

Balance can be symmetric or asymmetric. In asymmetric balance, a small object is balanced by another bigger having more or less the same visual importance. For instance, this is the case when a small highly colored or contrasted object is related to a bigger but plain or textureless item.

Rhythm

Rhythm relates to time and it implies adding the time dimension to photographs. As we saw, the viewer should be first attracted to the main subject, but then there are other (well-balanced) items in the picture he should look at. The photographer should be able to take the viewer in a journey, to involve him in the image. The journey begins with the main subject, and then the viewer should be led to the rest of the picture smoothly and with participation, along items of secondary importance. Think about this imaginary journey and try to compose it in your picture so that the viewer will be delighted to follow you and to go all over the path of your vision.

Double Exposure

  • SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS. Your prospective photobuyers will see you in a leadership role as you present a luncheon talk, seminar, or trade show presentation in front of a room filled with prospective clients. Increase the visual impact by enhancing your delivery with your personal photography. Join local and national organizations that can help you improve your speaking performance and keep you informed about the opportunities open to you through public speaking.
  • NETWORK. Develop a vital list of inner-circle contacts in the industry. Keep your list up-to-date, and keep these important persons up-to-date by contacting them regularly with news about your accomplishments, future travel plans, latest credits.
  • PUBLICITY. Not paid-advertising, but publicity. Which is free. Maintain a local, regional, and national list of camera columnists, camera clubs, photo schools, photo organizations, photo workshops and seminars, photo magazine editors, newspaper and newsletter editors, and freelance photo writers. According to the latest BACON’S PUBLICITY CHECKER there are 6,108 trade magazines published in the United States and Canada. Make a media person’s job easier by preparing a well-edited news release of interest to his/her audience, involving your photographic activities, accomplishments, projects, appropriately targeted to their interest areas, that fit your coverage areas.

Photo To Oil Painting

There are different genres in painting such as landscape, portrait and still life. Portraits are creating a painting of a life model, landscape is the painting of the environment and the last genre is still life which will be discussed in this article.

When creating still life paintings, the artist has full control of the subject. The artist would need to set the subject in a proper place where lighting is good, most likely north facing a window, having artificial lights or reflectors. When the artist has established this he can now be able to focus on his art.

First thing you’d need to ensure is that the painting is just how you want it. Try having a practice drawing first with sketches since painting it is completely different form looking at it. Then try to analyze the tonal values and make sure that the light patterns are just right. After the practice sketch and the tonal values, you will now have to deal with the color schemes.

After all those have been done, you will need to finalize. Finalizing includes making sure that the lighting and composition is correct. Many artists will not paint exactly what they see; they will in fact have some modifications to either make it better or to be able to express their personality in it.

The next step will be completely up top you; it all depends as to what style you will be using. You may want to handle the approach via the old master which is time consuming because it requires repeated layers of paints and glazes. But it allows great control and variety.

Here are some suggestions to make your still life painting more realistic, that even some people might think it’s the real deal.

  • Don’t light all objects equally; choose an object that will be the center of interests.
  • Decide on the concept, give the object some mass and paint some shadows.
  • Create a distinctive shape for every different object. Don’t make all your different fruits look all like apples. If the grape and lemons you plan on making seems to look like an apple I think you have a problem.
  • The object can either be across looking shallow or into the canvas.
  • Start your painting with the center of interest.
  • For objects to be lighted, the surface in which they are on must also be lighted
  • Try to add other colors by using the monochrome to make the object more realistic and prevent dullness.
  • Decide and understand how you will be able to bring what you want pout of your subject.
  • Establish the ground plane because it is also important.
  •  The darkest part in the picture is the line of shadow in the objects.

Writing With Light

Where am I going with this? Well, I think that with the increased emphasis on the number of MegaPixels and the intellect-snaring delusion that nirvana in photography is achieved by photoshop-ing, we are forgetting the basics. First things first, get the light, right.

Here are some basics:

  • If shooting a human subject take special care of how light causes shadows on different parts of the subjects face.
  • Be sensitive to “hot spots” being created in different parts of your photograph. Surely you do not want a shiny distractive element in your photo.
  • Look at your complete frame and see how light plays with; either by attenuating or amplifying; different elements. If a background element is being overplayed or under-emphasized, you are doing something wrong.
  • Not all your photography mistakes can be done away with on Photoshop. For instance, an image processing algorithm can never undo the crime of shooting when the color temperature is not appropriate.
  • Use a flash, but only if you have to. And then use a professional flash. The real cheap ones or the inbuilt fluorescent ones will make your pictures look unreal and also make them unappealing.
  • Make use of the best light source — the Sun. Used effectively, it generates the best pictures.

Space Heads

We chewed the fat for a few minutes and they all posed for the photo. Cuuut! Ok, I could tell they were not models, sure they were a real nice set of guys, but they were not posers. They needed a little coaching to get a good shot, that’s why they came to me. With a group like this I’m not going to get fancy. The first thing I want to do is tidy up their ski clothes so they look good. This entails closing their pockets, zipping up their zippers, you know details, details!

I stepped back to shoot the photo and looked at the group. Tip: When you step back to shoot the photo always do a quick scan and look for things you can improve. The men looked good with their ski gear on, all lined up, with the beautiful Sierra mountains for a backdrop. But, something was out of balance? It was the spacing between the guys. Actually they were pretty evenly spaced, it was just the spacing between the subjects heads was not even.

I had the men stand up straight and proud, and had a few of the guys adjust slightly left and right until the spacing between all the heads was perfectly even. This is called Horizontal Subject Spacing. I grabbed several shots, with and without smiles and then I gave each of them a card with the photo viewing information and they skied off. This was a simple example of how the head spacing can make the photo look better.

So what is it exactly, that you space out? The cheeks, hair, hat ? Nope, Imagine a dot on the nose, right between the eyes. The dot is the spot to space. Now it’s just a matter of connecting the dots!

Try this experiment. Next time your shooting a group of people set the photo up as you normally would and shoot the photo. Then take a moment to space the dots out perfectly and shoot another shot. Compare the composition of the images, WOW!!! What a difference, you’ll notice when you get the dots spaced just right, the photo has such a nice professional look to it. A money shot.

Now that your familiar with Horizontal Subject Spacing in your portrait photos, get creative and combine it with Vertical Subject Spacing. By using your models heights and having the subjects sit, kneel and stand, combine vertical and horizontal subject spacing. Try forming geometric patterns with the dots. You can make circles, ovals, triangles and more, get creative!

This is a quick tip is a photography technique you can incorporate into all your group portrait images, to improve the quality of your work. Use uniform subject spacing and watch your photography sales grow with your next shoot!

Secret Life Of The Flashgun

Auto

This is very likely to be your camera’s default setting and therefore the flash mode that your camera will be in when you first switch it on. In this mode, the camera decides whether there is enough light to take a picture without flash. If there isn’t, it will fire the flash and if there is, it won’t. It’s a set and forget option and the one most people will probably use most of the time.

Anti-red eye

Red eye is the effect you sometimes see in flash photographs where the pupil of someone’s eyes seems to glow bright red. It is caused by the fact that the built in flashgun is very close to the lens. That is why many cameras have a pop-up flash, to put more distance between the light and the lens.

Some cameras also have an anti-red eye flash mode. This switches on a steady light or fires successive flashes for a couple of seconds before taking the photograph. The idea is that all this light will make the pupil of the eye smaller and so minimise the effect. It sometimes works, but not always.

For example, if your subject is some distance away, it may not have a lot of effect. Even when it does work, it only makes the red eye smaller and you might still find it annoying. There are other downsides too. The actual photograph is not taken until the very last flash and that can be some considerable time after you press the shutter. Another thing is that it uses a lot of power and your batteries will drain much quicker.

Probably the easiest way to deal with red eye is to remove it from the photograph afterwards in a photo editing program because there is very little you can do about it when taking a picture using a built in flash. Probably the most effective technique is to ask your subject not to look straight at the camera but even that isn’t guaranteed to work 100% of the time.

Forced Off

This is where you start getting creative with your camera. If you have ever tried to take an indoor scene only to discover that the flash light totally ruined the atmosphere, then this is the setting you need. You also need to find something solid and stable to rest your camera on (unless you happen to have a tripod with you).

Most digital cameras are capable of taking exposures of several seconds (some up to around 30 seconds) so they don’t need to use the flash if nothing in the scene is moving. However, they do need to be absolutely still during the exposure, any movement at all will ruin the shot.

Even the movement of pressing the shutter button can be enough to spoil the picture but there is a way round this. Use the self timer. This is another function that exists on most cameras and, used in this situation, will eliminate any movement in even the longest exposure.

Forced on

If you have ever seen press photographers or other professionals taking pictures of people outside you may have noticed that most of them are using flash, even outdoors in bright sunlight – why?

The technique is called fill-in flash and it has two effects. First of all it “lifts” the darker shadows on the face, which helps especially on very sunny days. Secondly, it creates a very flattering “catch light”, which is a tiny bright highlight in people’s eyes.

You can use this professional technique yourself by forcing your flash to fire even when there is enough light to take a picture without it. This is the “forced on” mode. It is especially useful when taking pictures of people against a very bright background, like the sky, for example.

In this situation, without the flash, people’s faces usually come out far too dark. If you increase the exposure to compensate, you often find that the sky simply “burns out” to a flat white with no detail. This does not make for a flattering image. Using fill-in flash will make the faces brighter without affecting the exposure of the sky and result in a much better photograph.

Flash exposure compensation

Some cameras will also allow you to adjust the brightness of the flash when in forced on mode. Ideally, you don’t want the flash to be bright enough to overcome the natural light, just bright enough to reduce the heavy shadows. If you have the option to adjust the flash, it is worth experimenting with different settings, especially when you first try this out.

Take the same shot over and over again changing only this flash exposure setting between each shot. Don’t make a judgement about which is best until you have compared the pictures on a good monitor or print. Most people find that the effect looks best when it is very subtle. That is, with the flash exposure compensation in the minus range.

If the flash setting is too bright then the shot can look very unnatural, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it, everyone’s tastes are different. Once you have discovered the setting you like best, use this every time you switch to “forced on” mode.

Slow/second curtain flash

This setting is only likely to appear on more sophisticated digital cameras because it is a highly specialised way of using flash: but if your camera has it, this is what it’s for.

In this mode you will be taking a long exposure (possibly several seconds) and firing the flash during the exposure. When and why would you ever want to do this?

One situation might be if you were taking an indoor scene with something in the foreground that was in complete darkness. The flash would illuminate the foreground object whilst the long exposure would take care of the background. In this case you would control the lighting balance between foreground and background by adjusting the flash exposure compensation.

Another type of shot you can do is where a static object looks like it’s moving at high speed because there are “motion trails” coming out from behind it. This will only work if your camera can use “second curtain synchronisation”. If you try the technique described below, it will be easy to tell whether your camera has this or not.

You need to set up a shot with a long exposure and something moving in the frame during the shot. Without any flash, the moving object would just be a blur. By firing the flash, you also get a frozen image of the moving subject at the point when it fired. That’s where the second curtain sync comes into play.

If the flash fired at the beginning of the exposure (first curtain sync) then all the motion trails would be in front of the object and it would look like it was rapidly moving backwards. Using second curtain sync means the flash fires right at the end of the exposure and the motion trails will all be going in the right direction. It takes a bit of time to set up a shot like this, but if you get it right, the results can be spectacular.

Important Camcorder Features

When you’re searching for a camcorder don’t forget to look for image stabilization – a must when it comes to important camcorder features. A digital camcorder will offer either optical or electronic image stabilization. Optical stabilization is where the lens on the digital camcorder moves in accordance with the camera’s movements. Electronic stabilization is where images on the lens are captured onto the charge couple device (CCD), and internal circuits are used to interpret video images after recording is finished.

Important camcorder features should include a lens with optical zoom level of at least 10x. Some digital camcorders have higher zoom levels, but the higher levels may not be necessary in many cases. In fact, when a camera is recording at a higher zoom level the video quality can be poor as it is harder to keep still on something that is being recorded.

One of the most important camcorder features is a good-quality liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. This screen is what is used to display images that are going to be recorded onto the video disc in the digital camcorder. With a larger screen it can be easier to see what is being recorded, and it also helps to make playback previews editable. Larger LCD screens also have menus that can help to make customization of options on the camcorder easier, thus allowing for a greater level of control.

A digital camcorder’s built-in microphone records sound. Various digital camcorders feature zoom microphones that can enhance sounds in certain areas where recording is taking place. Some digital camcorders will also have a socket that allows for an external microphone to be plugged-in.

Other important camcorder features include a full auto switch (which lets you point and shoot), autofocus, zoom, quick review, auto-exposure, backlight compensation, audio/video inputs (that let you record material from another camcorder or VCR), digital still capability (that lets you take snapshots), built-in title generator, time-and-date stamp, time code (which is a frame reference of exactly where you are on the recording media — the hour, minute, second, and frame), remote control (which helps when you’re using the camcorder as a playback device or when you’re using a tripod), and programmed recording (self-timer).

The last of the most important camcorder features to consider but by no means least, is night mode. Some cameras have the ability to record images in darker settings with ease, and a camera with a night mode can help. Some camcorders will have an infrared or slow-shutter night mode to help with using ambient lighting in scenes to help improve the lighting levels for the camera. Usually a digital camcorder will have one of these settings, but some have both.

So there you have it, a summary of the most important camcorder features to look for in a digital camcorder. This type of camcorder can be great for recording memories and events, but be sure to consider these important camcorder features in one so that it can be used for everything you need out of it.

Take The Best Baby Photos Possible

We might not be expert photographers, however if we follow a few simple tips we should be able to produce some very good quality baby photos without too much effort. So that when we look back into our photo albums or we show them off to our neighbors and friends we will be proud of our efforts.

When I first began taking photos over twenty five years ago digital cameras were not an option. Film was quite expensive and so you took your baby photos or any other photo for that matter sparingly.

Today it is my recommendation that you go out and buy a mid priced digital camera. You can click away as much as you like without having to worry about the cost. What you do is transfer them all to your computer and then you can sort them at your leisure.

Just delete the ones you don’t want and keep the ones you do. You can buy a reasonably priced Color Printer and even print your pictures yourself or you can send them to a Commercial Printer over the internet. Or just take your memory card to your local printer.

Just remember when you are choosing your camera try to get a decent sized additional memory card to go with it. Standard memory cards won’t take too many baby photos at a large pixel count.

Buy a couple of extra batteries so you don’t get caught out when your batteries fail. Better still I would actually suggest you buy a camera with a rechargeable battery. Normally they last a day or two at constant use then need to be recharged. Or you can even buy a spare re-chargeable battery to use while you are charging the other one.

I always take my camera with me when I go out. So I am always at the ready to take the unexpected baby photos at a moments notice.

Try to take shots from as many different angles as possible. I am of the opinion that you don’t really know how good a shot is going to look until you have taken it and can see it either printed or on the computer. Remember it’s a digital camera so take lots and lots of shots because you are not going to keep them all only the ones that you like.

Image Stabilization

There is a third method that some digital cameras utilize and advertise as image stabilization. This method to counteract movement involves increasing the ISO setting to allow a faster shutter speed setting. This is not real stabilization. Also, be aware that image quality will go down as ISO goes up. I would avoid this type of stabilization.

Lens stabilization is obtained by moving the lens elements inside the lens that is attached to the camera.

Sensor stabilization is obtained by moving the sensor that is in the camera body.

Canon and Nikon currently utilize lens stabilization. Canon is more or less getting raked over the coals for not offering sensor stabilization. Nikon not so much. Not sure why Canon and not Nikon.

In any case if the demand is sufficient, then Canon and Nikon will both someday offer sensor stabilization.

So, what’s the big deal? With lens stabilization you have to buy each lens with the stabilization capability built into the lens. This can be expensive.

However, for those that want it and have a digital single lens reflex (D-SLR) camera, you can see the affect of stabilization through the lens. For some that is a big advantage.

With sensor stabilization you have stabilization for all lenses. That’s a potential cost savings. However, you can’t see the affect through the lens. Is that a disadvantage for you? After all we call these things D-SLR cameras because you can see the result of all your photographic techniques through the lens.

This controversy will be worked out over time.

In any case, if you do not have interchangeable lenses, you want have to be concerned about this. Even if your stabilization is in the lens, it is still build into the camera, since the lens is built in also.

Another potential disadvantage of the sensor method is that currently it performs better with shorter focal length lenses and not as well with longer telephoto lenses. Maybe the break point is around 200mm?

But like the controversy talked about above this will be improved over time.

Let’s talk about what stabilization, either type, does for you.

Basically, it allows you to handhold the camera in many situations in which you could not without stabilization. This allows you to get fewer blurry photographs.

By moving the lens elements or the sensor, the light path or optical plane is changed so that the effect of camera movement or vibration is lessened.

So, if you’ve got shaky hands, you get a break that results in better photographs because they are sharper.

This technology is becoming available for nearly all digital cameras – not just the high end cameras and not just digital single lens reflex cameras.

Stabilization is a great benefit in many situations. It allows you to handhold the camera at lower shutter speeds – 2 to 4 stops slower depending on the stabilization technology built into your camera.

However, if you need to use a really slow shutter speed it will not help you to hold the camera steady enough to obtain sharp pictures. How slow? That is really somewhat photographer dependent. Your abilities to handhold a camera may be very good. Mine may not. Most photographers experience problems handholding a camera at lower shutter speeds and when using the longer focal lengths.

In general, however, if you need a shutter setting of somewhere around 1/3 of a second or slower, you will need to get your tripod out or maybe select a shorter focal length lens or zoom.

The other situation where stabilization will help is when using a telephoto lens. The longer lenses tend to magnify movement and make blurry photographs.

So, if you have shaky hands, or a need to use lower shutter speeds, then stabilization just might be the counteraction that you need to extend you photographic experience and the quality of your digital photographs.