It’s a great honor for me to be invited here as a guest blogger. In my early years learning photography, well over ten years ago, the first photography books I purchased were from Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography series.
My love for landscape photography began while I was living on the Southern Oregon Coast for many years. It’s there that I developed my skills as a landscape photographer, on the local beaches and throughout the forests in the Pacific Northwest. Spending time in nature has always been a part of my life since my early childhood years. For these reasons I’m passionate about photographing nature.
During the last four years I’ve been traveling full-time in an RV with my husband. My goal has been to photograph places I’ve never been before in the western states. I’ve spent a lot of time photographing deserts and mountains, but my heart always comes back to the Pacific Northwest where my favorite landscape scenes are.
Spring is right around the corner, so I thought I would write about one of my favorite things in nature to photograph, waterfalls. In this post, I’ll share with you some tips on photographing flowing water during the springtime. The water run off can be pretty intense in the spring so hopefully these ideas will help you get the best images while out in the field.
Don’t Let Bad Weather Stop You
Being from the Pacific Northwest, I’m not afraid of the rain. I love going out to photograph waterfalls on a cloudy, drizzly day. For me, I feel these are the best conditions for photographing flowing water. The foliage around waterfalls most likely will be moist and lush looking. The moss and forest floor will pop with color.
Springtime can also bring foggy conditions. When mixed with a little bit of light, this can create some magical moments.
Be prepared for any kind of conditions by wearing layers, preferably non-cotton. This will work best in moist and still cool conditions. The proper footwear is important too. Bring boots, waders, or neoprene socks for under your boots for getting into the water. When it’s safe to do so, you’ll get much more interesting photos if you are willing to get into the water.
A sturdy tripod is important for getting the sharpest images and slowing down the shutter speed to get some nice long exposure images.
Bring along plenty of lens cloths to wipe away the spray from your lens. Invest in a good camera sleeve to protect your gear from water damage.
Photographing Waterfalls In Iconic Places
Springtime in State or National Parks can be a busy time with lots of tourists. It can make it hard to get the shot you want without people. Sometimes because of my travel schedule, I can’t avoid the crowds because I might have limited time to visit the area. I have found it best to avoid the weekends and definitely holidays. Be patient and allow people their opportunity to take their picture. I try not to take too much time photographing when there are people waiting to get their shot in the same position.
Get Creative With Composition
When I’m out photographing waterfalls, I will usually start with taking both horizontal and vertical shots with my wide-angle lens. Once I am satisfied that I have the images I want, I enjoy wandering around to scout for other possible compositions. Take your time. To me, the exploration is the most enjoyable part of landscape photography. Just being outside and experiencing the sights and sounds of nature has such a calming effect on me.
Change out that wide-angle lens with a telephoto to capture intimate or abstract scenes. Experiment with black and white. The creative possibilities are endless.
Bring Your Filters
Filters are a must for me. I bring my circular polarizing filter and a neutral density filter. The circular polarizing filter will help reduce the glare in the water and on the rocks. Along with your camera settings, the neutral density filter will help to slow down the shutter speed so you can get that beautiful silky look to the flowing water if that is your style and preference.
Experiment with the look you like when using your filters. I often just use the circular polarizing filter for reducing glare and bringing out the colors more. I may even stack both the circular and neutral density filters depending on the situation. My goal in some cases may be just to freeze the motion of the water to show the power of nature. In that case, I might remove the filters.
Enjoy The Adventure
I hope you get a chance to get out this spring and photograph waterfalls. As mentioned, the most enjoyable part of photographing flowing water is getting out in nature. Hiking trails to get to the waterfall and the exploration makes the whole experience even better. Be safe out there and have fun!
Color grading is an art form. There are thousands of resources, tutorials, scripts, software packages and workshops dedicated to this single topic. However, sometimes you just need something simple and you don’t want to dive into the heavy topic of the science of color. This is exactly why I came up with a quick plug-in free way of cycling through simplistic color grades randomly. It comes in handy when you don’t have the time to develop a look or when you simply just want to scroll through a couple of options.
The process is quite simple. You create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top. Then click on the gradient strip to get into the Gradient Editor, where you need to change the Gradient Type to Noise.
The percentage of Roughness determines the number of colours you will have in your gradient. I’d recommend setting that to 15% or lower.
For Color Model, I like to use HSB or LAB, but RGB works just as well. Here, technically you could restrict the colours, but for the full effect just leave the sliders as-is.
Make sure that Restrict Colors is ticked in and Add Transparency is not in the Options section. After all of this, Randomize away!
Once you settled on a gradient you like, hit OK. To apply the grade set the Blending Mode to Color and lower the opacity to your liking. And this is it, you are done. You can go back and Randomize the colours any time.
FIVE TIPS TO CAPTURE AUTHENTIC MOMENTS IN CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY
Well Hello! Tracy Sweeney here, owner/photographer of Elan Studio in Bristol, Rhode Island. I’m thrilled to return and guest blog about an absolutely important topic in family photography.
Have you ever viewed an image that was so powerfully driven in “something” that it physically stirred you? Perhaps it was “something” so evocative, a single moment crafted from someone else’s time, and yet the picture’s energy mirrored an indelible memory of your own, bringing forth genuine connection? Or possibly there was a level of emotion that resonated so profoundly that it made you just feel “something?” That “something,” that thing that pulls us, draws us in and makes us wonder, anticipate, relive, laugh, cry, gasp, pause, that “something” is authenticity.
Authentic imagery is powerful, and because I know that, I approach every photo session with the goal of crafting beautiful images through authentic means. Authentic, in elementary form, is defined as real and genuine. And through this consideration, it might seem paradoxical that my entire aim is authenticity, because, after all, I am a child and family photographer who poses, orchestrates, and directs; I am not a lifestyle photographer. Do I shoot candids? Absolutely, but my style is certainly not photojournalistic. So then, how does one, under these self-imposed parameters (that have shaped my business), create natural, authentic imagery?
1. BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF
The key to creating natural, authentic images is quite simple: be authentic yourself. That seems rudimentary, right? Perhaps there was a specific tool you were hoping I suggest, or an actual phrase, game, gear, or direction I would give to guarantee that, even in a melange of subjects, you would be able to draw each out naturally, and each of their best selves would shine.
Well, in part, that’s true, because your authenticity, your approach that makes you feel so natural and fluid, will attract that likeness, and in other trending words, “your vibe will attract your tribe.” If you are interacting with your clients in a way that feels fluid and true to you, your subjects will respond effortlessly and relaxed, allowing you to capture them naturally. This applies to adults and children.
2. ENGAGE IN GENUINE CONVERSATION
When I meet a new client for the first time, it is often at the beginning of their session. My pre-session consult takes place electronically, so the first time they are seeing me in-person many times is right as we begin our shoot. I, as the hired photographer, know it is my responsibility to make the client feel comfortable with me, even before I lift my camera. And so, we simply begin in conversation, pleasantries and again, genuine conversation and questions aligned with my authenticity (the same way I would talk to a new friend or cohort).
I begin by talking to the child, often even before talking with the parents. I get down to the child’s eye level and start by issuing genuine warmth and friendliness. Younger children can be very shy, and clinging to parents, but the initial greeting is a way to establish connectivity and ensure the child that the session will be fun and possibly exploratory. I establish mood and also a bit of expectation in regards to our location and upcoming adventure. In doing this, talking to the children first, asking the child questions about his/her day, school, activities, etc. I am opening dialogue but also building an arsenal of material I can use later during the session when I need to recharge the child (ex. “So you were telling me you play hockey earlier, what is your favorite skating rink?”)
3. SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
When parents know that their child is comfortable, they will ease up considerably. The major stress of a family photo shoot (beyond attire and aesthetics) is the concern that the children will not behave. I do truly believe it is my responsibility as the photographer to control the momentum of the session and essentially the behavior of the children, and this is done through establishing very clear expectations with the children, and consequently, the parents. I tell the family my goals for the shoot, different shots I would like to capture and the terrain we will cover.
My business is largely repeat clients, those who continue to rebook annually, and I attribute this not only to the quality of the final images, but the overall experience of the session. The success of your business is dependent on the session experience your clients have with you. Cultivating an enjoyable stress-free experience for clients is paramount for referrals.
When a client tells her friend about her family session and says, “Oh, It was so much fun. We had such a beautiful night together!” That testament is worth more than anything someone can say about your actual photography ability. What mother or father doesn’t want to have a beautiful night out with his/her family? And that there was a professional there, orchestrating and documenting the evening is where you insert your true value.
Notice I said “orchestrating,” because I don’t sit back and just watch. I do have to direct. I have to guide and support to create these authentic moments I want to capture. If I want younger brother to give his sister a kiss on the cheek, I ask him to and shoot away. If he does it without suggestion, fabulous. If he does it, but all I get is the back of his head and miss the sentiment entirely, I ask him to do it again, and point specifically to the temple to show him where to kiss his sister. Again, it’s that power of guidance. Children need direction, and structuring a family session in this way allows you to capture their essence as you, the photographer, see it.
4. HAVE A PLAN
Talking with my clients at the beginning of the session is so important as opposed to immediately diving in to the shooting of images. In this way, I am able to build trust with little ones creating opportunity for genuine moments.
When I begin photographing, I often do not let the children know that is what I am doing. I ask the children if they want to go for a walk, or if they would like to help me hold something, or if they would like to “hunt” for seashells, or special rocks, leaves, etc. anything to get little ones not to think about having to perform, but rather enjoying our time. Even the most hesitant of children, even the really really shy ones, typically will want to discover/find/look/play if encouraged. And this is what I mean by directing, it’s having a plan.
Of course I want to photograph a family playing and just being themselves at the beach, but I have to help them to actually do that. Because again, I want authenticity, but this is a staging of sorts. My clients arrive beautifully dressed in corresponding attire and I sometimes bring delightful props to stimulate the story and craft interest.
But that is not real of a typical day at the beach. A typical day at the beach is a more beautiful mess than flowy dresses and precise poofing pomade in little man’s hair. And yet, I feel absolutely comfortable knowing that I am still capturing authenticity, because my search is the family’s connection, the subtleties, the tippy toe kisses from children, the stolen glances, the pure joy of a swinging walk, and the thrilling chase of a sibling run-off while mom and dad adore. Those moments are artfully crafted. I instruct, observe, support, suggest, and shoot, typically in that order.
5. CREATE WHAT MOVES YOU
The most beautiful thing about authenticity is the ability to let go of the pursuit of perfection.
Authenticity is an embracement. It’s harnessing the environment and family as they are in their most perfect imperfectness. When I ask the family to go in for a tight hug near the shoreline (directing) and their toddler runs in the opposite direction, I continue to shoot….and to laugh, and to enjoy, and to truly capture what that toddler is. I might chase the toddler a bit and keep shooting, because that feels right to me, it is part of who I am and how I play with my own children.
Authenticity is often confused with uniqueness.There is nothing unique about a mother holding her baby in the air juxtaposed against a beautiful sunset. It’s been done before, it gets done all the time, I do it all the time! Because I love that pose, I love that image, as a mother, I wish I had that image of me and my babies. In that moment, with that specific child, unique or not, it is authentic to the subjects.
That is what I want to impart to you. Try to create what moves you. Those images I love to create attract like clients who want those images created for them. Do a few of the same things consistently. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it helps organize a session in a way that feels purposeful and fluid. And each family’s energy will take on the task/direction/suggestion in a way that is purposeful, meaningful and unique to them.
In addition to seeing more of Tracy’s work and following her on social media via the links above, you can also check out all six of her classes, covering newborn, toddler, and family photography, business, storytelling, and a personal interview, on KelbyOne!
Whenever the topic of access comes up, we as digital artists love to snipe and gripe. “Man if I shot that (event, celebrity, etc.), I would have done ____, ____ or _____. But whatever, they always give the great jobs to this mope.” Flip the conversation to privilege, however, and see how everyone starts to get uncomfortable.
I mean think about it. What’s the last photo related event you were at? What did you see? Cameras, booths, whatever. But what was the crowd like? Let me fill you in: it was a group that skews older, male, and white.
That in itself isn’t bad, it’s just a reflection of mean income and wealth. Before the emergence of the smartphone, photography was too expensive for the layman to just pick up casually. Cost was and still is our biggest deterrent.
The question I wanted to ask with this piece: what happens when that lack of access/abundance of privilege effects our ability to story tell and leaves large portions of stories untold or shot voyeuristically?
The skinny: subjects see images that don’t fully resemble themselves. Communities see stories that don’t tell the whole tale. Everyone feels the images aren’t honest to their story. The heavy: It continues to leave stories untold or half-assed ones that are lazily told whilst shutting out photographers who may be able to do a better job.
Let’s start with the skinny. You may be in the demographic I described earlier: older, white and male. You are a talented photographer and you want to do more story telling about people of color. What can you do to ensure that your subjects look at your work and get excited?
It All Starts With The Hair
Do you use a hair light? Like a dedicated light for your models in your three light system? If your subject has dark hair, it will absorb a lot of light. Adding a hair light adds separation and helps bring out detail and texture in the hair that could otherwise be lost if only working with a single light. A few of you will chuckle and say of course. Well then great! You’re done, you can stop reading. Nah, I’m playing. Keep your butt here.
Okay so you use a hair light. How is your placement of it? Often the hair light kisses the top of a subjects hair. If you are using a crate or grid, do whatever you can to widen the area that the hair light hits to make sure models with textured hair can get details throughout their hair. For example braids, cornrows, etc. may have different patterns and designs on a part of the head.
Be Conscious Of Undertones
Skin tones come in warm and cool variations, and which group your subject fits into will determine what colors of backgrounds, outfits, makeup, and accessories will complement them.
You can tell a subject’s undertones by looking at their wrist. A person with cool undertones will have veins in their wrist that appear blue, while someone with warm undertones will have veins that look green.
For best results, pair warmer colors with subjects with warm undertones and cooler colors for those with cooler undertones.
As you choose environments for portraiture, look for complementary colors that work well with the undertones for a soothing portrait, or contrasting or clashing ones for a more provocative look.
For example: I leaned into Jihaari’s skin’s orange undertones by placing him in compositional opposition to a sign with similar colors.
And you can see how the subtle inclusion of red in the setting of the photo above goes smoothly with Kelechi’s undertones.
Know The Difference Between The Whites vs. Blacks Sliders And Shadows vs. Highlights
The best advice I can give you is leave your histogram up on Lightroom while you play with these and see how the tonality changes.
Resist the urge to lighten someone up…. I’ll say it again for the folks in the back: Properly lighting dark skin is not the same as abusing the exposure slider in Lightroom. How will you know if someone’s skin is exposed properly? It’s the same as it always is. Study the differences in light. Are there highlights and shadows with differing detail? Are the shadows pure black?
If you have to, take time to use the Dodge and Burn Tools sparingly to bring up shadows.
On to the heavy:
If you are shooting a project on a topic or in an area or neighborhood that isn’t your lived experience, why not spend time doing the following:
Do actual research about the place.
Get there two days early. Get a good night’s sleep and just walk around and take in the environment.
Hire a local assistant.
Follow photographers whose work doesn’t look like yours and who don’t look like you or have your life experience.
Review your images with your subjects.
Make yourself accountable: give your subjects a direct line to you after the shoot is over.
If you think this story isn’t for you, challenge your client or editor to choose someone else! (always helps to recommend a few folks.)
Thank you for taking the time to listen, if you have any thoughts, questions, feedback, praises whatever, you can find me on instagram as @aundre or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Wednesday everybody! I just thought I would share a couple of short video projects I worked on recently. I partnered up with two local Nashville businesses to create quick-hit promo videos for them so people can see what they’re all about.
First up is Gift Horse, a quirky shop that carries artisan goods with a sense of humor and personality. Owner Jessica Maloan curates all the goods in her store, and her customers love her sense of style. There are lots of artisan and handmade goods, and a lot of the items she carries will definitely put a smile on your face.
Then we have Diskin Cider, which is where you’ll likely find me hanging with friends on the weekend since they’re just around the corner from where I live. They make some tasty beverages and have a really great, welcoming space to hang out in as well.
Both videos were shot on the Sony A73 body with Sony lenses (which I was just trying out but really enjoyed working with). They were edited in Adobe Premiere CC, and the music is from SoundStripe.
I can still remember that day back in 2013 when I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I was in my early 20’s working a job I didn’t like, living a lifestyle that didn’t suit me and feeling like I would never get to fulfill my dreams and ambitions. But it was out of that dark place in my life that I took probably the most important and somewhat reckless decision I had ever made – I threw up my hands and said: “The hell with it!”
Almost overnight, I started selling everything I had except for my camera gear and a few sets of clothes, and bought a one-way ticket to Asia. I wanted to set myself off on a unique journey, hoping to find a new path in life and follow my childhood dream of becoming a world-traveling cultural and documentary photographer.
While this might sound cool, or even fun for some of you, this decision was absolutely terrifying for me. I didn’t know what to expect, what might happen, or if this huge risk I took would even pay off in the end. But when I look back at it today, I know that this journey single-handedly started my current career as a full-time photographer. These days I’m working on my own book, have had my images featured in National Geographic, and have even had the privilege of sharing my experiences from the amazing stages of TEDx and Oxford University.
Now while I’m very proud of what I do, I’m not here to boast. What I am actually hoping to do in this blog post is to share with you my “Secret Weapon.” A secret which I use all the time in my own photographic work and, hopefully, you’ll be able to use it for yourself as well! It will help you feel more fulfilled from your photography, getting your images noticed, and, at the very core of things, help you take an extra step towards becoming a better photographer. So… Are you ready??
First, we need to understand that in our modern, and highly digitalized world, photography is literally everywhere. Every minute there are over 200,000 never before seen new images shared online – and those are only the numbers from Facebook! Meaning there are way more new images shared on Instagram, Flickr, and the seemingly endless photography websites and forums out there.
These are ridiculous amounts of photographers trying to get their work noticed, recognized and published. If you wish to give your photographs a chance to stand out in this overflowing ocean of images, you need to do more than just make “pretty images.” What you want to do is to start delving into the world of creating your own personal photography project – and that is the secret weapon I’m talking about.
Now, at this point, I know some of you are either super hyped and ready to take on this challenge, but, on the other side, many of you are thinking “This looks like way too much work and, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have the time or means to work on a photography project of my own.” All I ask of you is that before you make up your mind, please allow me to give you 3 reasons why I think you should set aside the habit of occasionally strolling around with a camera and start dedicating your time to working on a personal photography project.
Take Better Advantage Of Your Time And Efforts
For the majority of us, the most important resource in our photography is time. Those of us who are amateur or aspiring photographers can often only dedicate a few hours a week for their passion of photography, and those of us who are professional photographers end up clearing maybe a few weeks out of the year to invest in our own personal work and portfolio. This means that when we finally have free time to do whatever we like, we should use this opportunity for its maximum potential. Unfortunately, in my eyes, one of the best ways to waste that precious time is by aimlessly wandering around, randomly snapping images and hoping something special will come out of it.
When you are working on a photography project, you have a set goal. You are following a theme which is leading and shaping your work as a photographer. This means that, once you have chosen your project’s topic, it becomes much easier for you to recognize in what you should invest the time, energy, and budget that are available to you in a more potent way. This helps you focus mainly on getting the best images and story for the series. This is a highly effective way to make sure you don’t waste your time on fruitless endeavors.
I can easily speak from my own experience. This focus and mindset were extremely helpful for me while I was working on my very first photography project – The Eagle Huntress. Only after I decided what would be the topic of my photographic work in west Mongolia (which was the future generation of eagle hunters), did I manage to dedicate all of my resources to both learning more about the local culture and getting the best images for my photography project; the same images which ultimately ended up catching attention in the world media and helped jumpstart my career.
The Greats Have Always Done It
There is a saying from Bernard of Chartres which, in my opinion, is a great piece of advice for anyone who deals with a creative art such as photography. It goes like this:
“If I have seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
-Bernard of Chartres
When it comes to the topic of asking yourself “Should I start doing photography projects?” in order to find your answer, all you need to do is to look at the work of great photographers from the past and many of the industry leaders today.
A very good example can come from the work of, probably the greatest master of street photography, the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson, who dedicated almost his entire career working on one project which was the city of Paris. Other great photographers, whose work is composed mostly of personal projects, would include photographers like Annie Leibovitz with her beautiful series, ‘Women Who Led,” or Sebastiao Salgado with his fine art book, “Genesis.” And if you wish to look at more modern photographers, who are working in the industry today, check out the work of Jimmy Nelson’s ongoing project “Before They Pass Away,” Brandon Stanton’s internet sensation “Humans of New York,” and the talented Von Wong, who has recently focused his unique talent of creating breathtaking visuals to work on photography projects revolving around waste and its effect on our environment.
Even Steve McCurry, who is one of my personal heroes, managed to photograph his iconic portrait “The Afghan Girl” only through his long term photography project on the Afghan rebels during the ’80s. While the general public might only care for the final famous portrait, we as photographers need to see beyond that. We must understand that it was the process of working on a photography project, a photographer focusing his full attention and working on a specific topic, that had led McCurry to capture probably one of the most well-known images in history.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that photography projects are the only way for making great photographs. But I am saying that it most definitely seems to be a great path to them. A path which many great photographers explore.
It’s One Of The Best Ways To Give You An Edge As A Photographer
As a rule of thumb, photography projects tend to flourish the more you work on them. Once you choose your topic of interest and start working on your project, your first series of images won’t necessarily be any better than anyone else’s. But as we said before, once you’ve decided to invest most of your time and efforts specifically into your project, you will find yourself returning to your subject matter again and again – digging deeper, exploring more unique photographic opportunities and pushing yourself beyond the edges of your comfort zone as a photographer and storyteller.
Many styles of photography can benefit from this! Landscape photographers would be encouraged to explore a more unique viewpoint. This would help them to stray away from the easy to get and well-known spots, exploring the horizon for unique angles of their own which many others have either missed or didn’t bother to look for. Documentary photographers, such as myself, could invest more time into building a deeper personal relationship with the people they photograph – resulting in a better understanding of the culture they meet and even gaining better access to the lives they document.
This mindset of coming back to the same topic, again and again, looking for better photographs, will push you to find unique visuals which have a better chance to stand out and catch attention wherever you may share them. This edge can be the difference between someone investing time out of their day to check out your work or simply stay in their daily routines until something unique comes along and grabs their attention.
As we arrive at the end of this blog post, if you do end up deciding to take on my challenge and start working on a photography project of your own, let me give you another word of advice… You don’t have to start big – you just need to start.
No one is asking you to fly halfway across the world to reach deep into the Amazon forests, or the high Himalayan mountains, integrate yourself with isolated communities and create one of the most unique photography projects ever seen. While you might decide to do something like that in the future, you can start slow and small. In order to start, all you need to do is to simply choose a subject that truly interests you. Something that you would like to learn more about and using your camera, go ahead and explore it. If you do, I can guarantee that by doing a photography project on something you like, you will improve significantly as a photographer and the process will be one of the most rewarding photographic experiences you’ve ever had.
And for those of you who still remain undecided, working on photography projects has allowed me to follow my childhood dreams and become a full time traveling photographer – What is the worst that can happen to you for trying it?
If you want to learn more about doing your own photography projects and starting to get your work published – you should check out my free Ebook “Making a Photo Story.”