Let’s start with the best thing about my holiday gift suggestion – which is that I’ll deliver it to your door! No fighting through stores, no answering the lame ‘hi, how are you?’ from every greeter (ok, that used to be a good idea, but now it isn’t).
The rest of the info is in my short slideshow, I found some good music so don’t worry you won’t have to listen to Holly Jolly Christmas again either.
Good photography never goes out of style! And coaching sessions will improve anyone’s photography forever. Really! The gift that keeps on giving and which has reduced this blog post to horrible cliches.
By editing I don’t mean photoshopping women into Barbie dolls.
I do mean recovering the colour, tone, contrast and detail that are already present in your photos.
Not to mention having loads of FUN with iPhone/iPad apps that quickly turn your snaps into art (and back, if you decide you’ve added one too many degrees of crazy.)
Photo editing software: (Great news – you already own it!)
Most photo-related programs provice basic editing tools that help you boost contrast and colour and also to recover very dark or bright areas. Which is often all you need.
Here’s my video on magically bringing back shadows using iPhoto – if you’re not a Mac person you can do this in Picasa or whatever program you use.
iPhone/iPad editing apps:
Yeah, tons of iPhone/iPad apps available. Snapseed was recommended to me and even though it’s not free ($5) it’s one of the better ones. It certainly does a lot of great things – but the reason it stands out for me is eae of use. Onscreen intructions help you learn each feature very quickly (hate apps that leave you completely in the dark).
You’re really up and running and getting creative in no time and you have to love an app that can do that.
Here’s an iPad shot of one of Brooke Batchelor’s trays in action (brookebatchelordesign.com) – before and after I’ve edited in Snapseed while stting around at the hair salon. (No trashy mags for me!) I enhanced colour and detail, and used the ‘Centre Focus’ feature to create the nice blur bringing the focus onto the food and the tray. (For more on the difference between ‘good blur’ and ‘bad blur’ and ‘really, really bad blur’ in your photos – consider attending one of my workshops!)
Another note on Snapseed, it’s also available for your Mac or PC ($20) so you could use it for all your editing if you want a little more than iPhoto or Picasa etc.
There are many other apps, and then of course there’s Instagram and their excellent photo sharing service – but those will be the subject of another post.
Don’t bother with:
Apps that let you ‘zoom in’ – your iPhone or iPad does not have a zoom lens although you can buy them – but then you might as well use a camera – right?
You are better off focusing properly by tapping the screen on your desired subject and then cropping in later. Just my two cents . . .
This tip will help you out whenever you want to take a portrait photo of kids, family members, friends – but there’s seemingly no natural place to have them pose. Maybe you’re stuck in the restaurant parking lot and you’ve just gathered before you go in – something like that.
If you are in this situation, your best friend will be a plain wall in open shade.
99% of your portrait photos taken under these circumstances will look better if you can manage to find this wall/shade combination.
The above portrait was taken in front of an ugly, but interesting, parking lot wall. Two steps to the subject’s left was a sharp patch of sunlight. If standing in that sunlight he would have been blinking in the sun, and also have sharp shadows across his face.
In this shaded photo, there is still plenty of light, but no sharp shadows and no distracting background.
The emphasis here is on the subject, and not the subject + restaurant sign, or subject in front of a row of ugly cars. That’s why it is an effective photo.
This technique for achieving razor sharp focus in your digital SLR camera came to me by way of the very wonderful Algonquin Park photographer Andrew Collett.
I haven’t mentioned it before as it only applies to cameras with a Live View function that allows you to view your subjects ‘live’ on your LCD screen instead of through the viewfinder. This Live View function is now available in pretty much all the new Canon and Nikon models and probably all the others as well – so it now applies to a much wider group of amateur photographers.
So what’s the secret?
First, get your camera on a tripod and your flip your lens to ‘manual focus MF instead of AF autofocus’.
The switch for this will be on the barrel of your lens as shown in the image to the left.
Switching to MF means that you will be turning the focus ring on the lens to focus on your subject.
When it’s on AF, the lens does the focusing for you.
With me so far?
Now switch your camera to Live View mode. You’ll know you are in Live View mode when the world suddenly appears on your LCD screen, somewhat as if your camera was a point and shoot.
For most cameras this will involve a trip into the menu along the lines of ‘Live View’ ‘Enable”, and then pressing the designated button on the back of the camera to activate.
No this is NOT hard – it’s just a couple of buttons, just find out where they are, you’ll see, it’s totally worth it!
As promised – razor sharp shots:
Turn Live View on and set your camera up to focus on a (static) subject. Rotate the focus ring on your lens until your subject appears pretty sharp on your LCD.
Notice that there is a focus box of some kind on your screen and that you can use the buttons/joystick on the back of the camera to shift this box around the frame. Move the box to the area of your subject that you want to be the most sharp.
You are now in a position to magnify your subject using the same buttons on your camera that allow you to zoom in when your are reviewing your photos. These buttons (example shown left) will usually have a ‘magnifying glass’ icon containing a ‘+’ and ‘-’ in the centre. They are often positioned top right. To magnify or zoom in, press the ‘+’ button.
Press the button once and you’ll see your subject magnified on your LCD. Try adjusting the focus ring to get your subject even sharper than it had previously appeared.
Press the button once again to really magnify your subject and you’ll see that you can still adjust your focus even a little bit more.
Your subject is now as sharp as possible – and by the way – really cool to see.
All that’s left to do is press the shutter and take the shot.
A Live View focus comparison
Here I’ve taken two quick shots of a little jeweled lamp shade that I have. One using my lens’ autofocus (and it’s a very fast, very sharp lens) and the second using the Live View technique. I have cropped to only a fraction of the original image so you can see the difference in the edges. Apologies for the deteriorated appearance caused by the extensive magnification.
The second photo is sharper and if this is not immediately apparent looks at the texture of the material on the shade and you can easily see how much clearer it is. Extra sharpness at this level will give you incredible sharpness throughout your image (although this will of course be affected by your choice of aperture). This will be particularly fabulous for landscape and macro shots, which are more typically the ones where you might be using a tripod and shooting a ‘static’ image. This is not going to help you for portraits unless your subject can sit completely still (unlikely!)
I’ll add a few more examples later but for now let me encourage you to work through the settings and give this a try. Believe me as soon as you see the magnified image on your screen you’ll be hooked!
And,surprise! I just happen to give them. I have a lovely Holiday Gift Certificate if I do say so myself which can be mailed or – if you live fairly close to me in Toronto – delivered. You can purchase as many or as few sessions as you like. Right now my Holiday Series for SLR cameras is $269 for 4 sessions, a little less for point and shoot. Single sessions are $75/$65.
Sessions are usually 1.5 to 2 hours, and can be in your home or my studio, whichever you prefer. Absolutely no technical experience, photographic ability, creative genius required. Just show up and you’ll learn how to step away from the auto button and use your camera’s full range of capabilities. Plus – we’ll have a lot of fun (unless you don’t do your homework – then it gets ugly!)
I am also planning to hold some 4 person workshops in the spring, so if that’s something your loved one might be interested in – it would be fine to use the gift card for that. Workshops will be $300 for 6 sessions.
For more information, questions or to sign up – please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Nicole at 647.888.8161.
Taken at a SF Giants spring training game – this is one of my all-time favourites.
Firstly because, well . . . awwww.
Second because I have never been so well rewarded for having my camera ‘at the ready’.
As I sat watching the game – which was a riot of colour – a bright sunny day, red uniforms, green grass, the whole bit – I set my camera so that if something were to strike my eye I would be ready to shoot.
As I turn around I spot this little guy on his mom’s shoulders – he was watching me taking photos – I raised my camera and snapped a shot. Checked. Blurry. I realized my lens was set for distance shots not close-ups – flipped the little switch in 1 second, got him to raise his glove next to his face and then snapped another shot – this shot.
So lesson #1 – be ready. Lesson #2 – know you’re equipment. 90% of candid photography combines these two things. The other 10% – looking up and having the joy of seeing a little fellow with eyes like this staring at you! (Yes I did get his mom’s permission to publish this photo).
You might not be out there trying to get photos of anyone other than your own family and friends – but if that’s your plan – then check the light, check the surroundings and get your camera ready before events start to unfold. If your subjects have to wait while you adjust your settings – the candid moment will be lost. If you’re settings aren’t correct to start with – the photo might be lost. So channel your inner Boy Scout/Girl Guide and BE PREPARED.
Welcome! If you have arrived here as a result of my ad in the Mooredale News – please click here to access the Better Photo Series Page! Sign up for the series and be on your way to better photography before the Toronto spring is over (if it ever arrives!)
Meanwhile here’s a colourful (no photoshop) photo by way of encouragement – this was just before my nine new best friends and I piled into this basket (Phoenix, AZ) for our first balloon flight. This shot wasn’t taken with a point and shoot camera, but it could have been – conditions were perfect for a quality photo. What conditions would those be you ask? Sign up for the Better Photo sessions and I promise I’ll tell all!
Haven’t posted in a while so I thought I’d take a stab at uploading a gallery from Lightroom 3.
These were all taken at the Don Valley Brickworks – a fabulous Toronto location as far as photography goes.
As is always the case early risers are rewarded with the best shots as mist rises from the ponds and the sun’s rays suddenly shine through about 30 minutes after dawn.
Grasses, trees, flowers, ponds, bridges – the DVB has a little of everything and is run in a very relaxed fashion – you can venture right into the grasses and down by the water without a whole bunch of signs saying you can’t do this or that. It’s great!
Hint: You can always google Toronto sunrise times to quickly find sunrise/sunset info for any date.
How do you go about taking a photo like this? We all know what Christmas trees look like, so how can we take a photo that’s a little more interesting and capture a little of that Christmas tree magic? Let’s go through the process…
First off – it’s evening, there are no presents under the tree – decision #1, leave out the bottom of the tree.
Second this was at a party and there was a table with three guests directly to the right. Decision #2, frame so they aren’t in the shot, use opportunity to put center line of tree along the left ‘thirds’ line of the photo. (See post on composition)
Third any shot including the angel at the top of the tree would also take in a lot of uninteresting wall and ceiling – decision #3, leave out the angel. This is the type of decision that will set you apart as a photographer – you don’t have to get the whole tree – as I’ve said, we all know what they look like – many times in photography less will turn out to be so much more.
Fourth, the reflection of the tree light in the latticed window is awesome, so why not include it? Decision #4 – include the magical reflection.
Last but best and by far the most important – I set my camera so that I could take this photo with NO FLASH. Flash would have reflected off the ornaments and in the window – while turning everything behind the tree black. Sad, sad, sad… I do have an SLR that allows me to do this, but nowadays most point and shoots will allow you to do it too.
Tune in for my next post and I’ll give you a step-by-step on taking indoor photos without flash…