An important element of improving as a photographer is learning about composition. Composition is how we put together and arrange things in a photo to make it look well balanced and artful. There are tried and tested ways of arranging the elements in a photograph to look “pleasing” to the eye and they have been used in art for centuries. Sometimes nature does this composition for us and all we have to do is point the camera in the right direction and click, but mostly we have to work a little at it to make our photos look the best they can be.
If you struggle with knowing how to best compose your photos, I want to encourage you to first of all SLOW down and think about your shot before you take it. All too often we are in a hurry to shoot and we miss things that could help bring the shot to the next level. Slowing down will help you focus on the beauty or the emotion that you are trying to capture and allow you time to think about how to best approach your shot. Slowing down will give you time to think about the following four things:
The Focal Point of your image is usually the most important thing in the frame. Its that end place that you want the viewer’s eye to rest on when they are looking at your final photo an it is usually the sharpest thing in your frame.
ACTION: Place the camera’s Focus POINT (red dot or black squares) over your FOCAL POINT by toggling your focus points or use the “Focus Lock and Recompose” technique .
Evidence suggests that placing your focal point bang slap in the middle of your frame is not a good look. One of the most widely known “rules” of photographic composition is the Rule of Thirds. the Rule of Thirds is where you think of your frame being divided into a tic-tac-toe grid. The rule suggests you should place your points of interest (including your focal point) where the gridlines intersect. A good exercise is to go through your image library and see how you could re-crop your photos with the Rule of Thirds in mind to improve them.
There are many other composition “rules” and we cover each of these in depth each month in my Take 52 PLUS membership group. Another basic one is the concept of Balance. There are many types of balance in an image one of which is when an image just ‘feels” well balanced. This could be because the visual weight of each side of the image is in check or even everything is perfectly symmetrical. Think about what might throw an image off balance for you.
Perspective is also something that can completely change the composition of your image. Taking time to consider your point of view, your choice of lens and you choice of focal distance can help you to create improved compositions.
You want to give as many clues as possible to the most important part of your image and there are many various composition techniques for achieving this. Some of the more basic things you can think about is using Leading Lines which draw your viewers eye into your image, or using a natural frame to frame your shot.
Bright highlights as they will draw the viewer’s eye towards them and shadows will generally lead the eye away from an area so be mindful about where these appear in your image.
This last point is probably the one that will make the biggest difference to your photos. If something doesn’t add to the story that you are trying to tell in your image, then leave it out of the shot. Use your zoom to crop in nice and tight if your main subject is a person. Leave no question about what the main focal point of your image is. Sometimes, you need supporting information in your frame to add to the story. If this is the case, then by all means, leave it in. It’s all your call. But if something makes it into the frame, there should be a good reason for it being there!
If you would like to delve deeper into COMPOSITION theory and technique I’d love to have you join us in the Take 52 PLUS group. Its an awesome way to step up your photography game with directed monthly assignments and peer feedback from a supportive community.
And if you are thinking, how on earth am I going to remember all of this stuff when it comes to taking a photo, sign up below to get your free Cheat Sheet on Composition!
I Love P! I do! Ask any of my students 🙂 I tell them all P is their best friend – their buddy, their pal! So who or what is P I hear you ask?
Ah! P doesn’t stand for Professional, ahem, as I’ve heard, ahem, at least twice before…
P = Program Auto Mode! See it up there on your camera Mode Dial?
Program Auto Mode is your best friend because it gives you all the benefits of shooting in Auto Mode such as, the camera takes care of all of the exposure decisions for you, but lets you override any setting you wish. And as you know, there are lots of other things to worry about on your DSLR or mirrorless camera other than just exposure. In Program Auto Mode you can control the Flash, the White Balance, the Metering, the Auto Focus Modes etc. while the camera makes sure you have a well exposed shot every time.
All of these things are functions of your camera that you really need to take time to learn. These will make the difference in your photography between just “blah” photos to something that you’re really proud of. And while you are learning about these things, you don’t have to worry about Shutter Speeds or f-Stops – all that is taken care of by P so you can spend your time getting to know all the other stuff while still getting correctly exposed shots.
I believe that you should run before you can walk and using P mode allows you to do just that. Before you start manipulating the exposure get to know how your camera sets things and you will see how small tweaks can make a huge difference.
For example, look at the following two shots:
Pic outside with Flash
In Auto, the camera will never decide to pop up the flash when you are outside as it only worries about whether there is enough intensity of light or not. Using Fill in Flash when your outside will help to avoid these shadows and totally change the look and feel of your image. You can only add this pop of flash in the P mode but it is as simple as just by pressing the Flash Button on the side of your camera flash.
As you can see, using your flash outside as a Fill In Flash can bring your photos to life!
There are so many of things like this that cannot be done in Auto Mode and once you’ve been using your camera for a while you’re bound to come across these limitations. In fact, if you’ve had your camera anything more than a wet weekend (or a snowy one) I’m willing to bet you have already.
Program Auto Mode also gives you little clues as to how the camera is deciding to set the exposure. If you pay attention to the numbers on the back of your camera, you can quickly begin to see the exposure combinations that work best for various scenarios. This will give you a clue as to where to start when setting manual exposures.
The first number you see is the Shutter Speed and the Second is the Aperture. These two varibles will dictate the exposure along with ISO. And ISO can be controlled in Program Auto.
As your photography progresses knowing the variables will be come very important
I actually believe that getting a firm grip on ISO and its impact on your images is a great foundation in shooting in manual and P mode allows you to play with ISO and figure out this important part of the equation.
So the next time you are at the park, or messing around with the camera outside, don’t be too hard on yourself and have a go in Program Auto Mode and see what you can change 🙂
If you’d like to learn more about all the things your wonderful camera can do, then join me for a live webinar on “Simple Things you can do to Improve your Everyday Photos.”
Its not uncommon for me to hear from students that trying to decipher the menus and buttons on their cameras is like trying to learn a completely new language. In this video I try to explain how you can easily find the function you need quickly and why you rarely even need to venture into the camera menu.
If you’d like to join the Camerashy Take 52 Photo Challenge we’d love to have ya! Click here to sign up: http://ingridkellyowens.com/camerashy-take-52-challenge/
One of the best ways to improve any skill or craft is by consistent, regular practice. We could all think ourselves the best painter in the world if all we ever did was read about how to do it – but putting the brush to canvas is another matter entirely. So it is with photography. It’s quite possible to think that you’ve got this photography thing down,only to realize when you are inspired to shoot, your Apertures and your ISOs are all in a heap! The secret to getting better at photography is consistent, deliberate, regular practice.
This can sometimes be easier said than done. As cute as your kitty cat is, it’s tiresome taking his portrait all day long and what else is there to shoot? Well listen – I’ve got the answer…
A great way to hone your skills is to do a weekly assignment in the form of a Weekly Photography Challenge. This is similar to Project 365 that you might have already heard of but a little less intense. The idea is that there is one theme per week which you use as your inspiration to go out and shoot. Depending on the challenge, the theme may be quite vague and open to creative interpretation or quite specific – perhaps a particular subject or technical skill. Being to told what to do takes away some of the issues you might have surrounding what to shoot and give you purpose to your practice.
But the other really nice part of participating in a weekly photo challenge is that you are not doing it alone. The camaraderie and friendships that develop in these groups is phenomenal and they provide a wonderful learning ground for people new to photography. If you think this might be something that you would be interested in, I’ve put together some of my top tips below, to help you succeed with a weekly photo challenge like the CameraShy Take 52 Challenge.
There are many places where you can follow along with a photography challenge – some with private Facebook groups or forums and others where bloggers just provide a link up section in the comments of their posts. Take your time to do a little research to find the right group for you. Photography is infamous for having a lot of very passionate and sometimes opinionated people and it can be super intimating for a newbie to join an established group. If you a beginner/intermediate search for groups specifically in this area, like my CameraShy Take 52 Group. (I boot out any meanies that surface tout suite!)
If your love is food, perhaps you’d love a food specific group. If you goal is to become more professional, you might consider a group with a stricter critique protocol. Facebook is a great place to begin your search, as of course is Google and Flickr is still holding its own.
If you like my style of teaching, Join The Camerashy Take 52 Challenge.
Receive access to the private Facebook Group and get the prompts delivered to your inbox each Monday!
When you first join a group take 5 minutes to read the admin’s rules about how and when to post. There is nothing more frustrating than a new participant ‘spamming’ the group with tons of photos of their aforementioned cat which have nothing to do with the theme.
Read the rules, ask questions if something isn’t clear and introduce yourself to your new group of friends.
When the theme is released each week, remember that it is not a competition to be the first to submit. The idea of being a participant is to improve your work – adding that amazing shot you took of the Tetons 3 years ago will do nothing to improve your skills only perhaps boost your ego for 5 minutes.
Take a minute to let the theme sink in with you and think about it before you shoot. Initially you may draw a complete blank but you’ll be amazed how your brain works and when you least expect it, an idea will present itself to you.
When you decide to shoot your subject give a little thought to how you are going to compose your shot. Try several different ways to approach the same subject – change your aspect, the time of day, lens and of course your camera settings.
This is sometimes one of the hardest parts of an assignment i.e. deciding which image you are going to present. It’s tough trying to figure out what your best work is and quite often you’ll feel like you could have done so much better and quite often you are right, but just go on and submit.
Waiting on perfection can be the devastation of many artists.
Share your best efforts and keep looking forward – there’s always next week!
Share your camera settings which can be found in the exif data of your image and more importantly, share your thought process too. This will help other people learn from your work and help you to clarify what your intentions were with the image.
Be an active contributor to the group both in terms of what you submit and by helping others, answering questions and giving feedback on others work. It’s usually not a requirement to submit EVERY single week – at least I do not keep track of these things in Take 52 – so don’t be put off if your snowed in one week or you have a sick kid and cannot get out to shoot. It’s usually ok to play catch up or just to jump in again when you are ready.
If critiquing each other’s work is part of the challenge, remember to do it kindly and constructively. First read the rules which deal with critique and comments. Some people may not be open to critique at all but it’s a very necessary part of the process both for the “critiquer” and critiqued.
In my group we follow this protocol: Say something you like about the image, say something you’d change about the image and end with something positive.
It is as beneficial for the commenter as much as the critiqued party when constructive feedback is given. Receive the critique openly and in the spirit which it was given. There is always room for improvement and its good to hear how others would approach the same shot.
Taking part in a weekly challenge really is a terrific way to improve your photography skills, get inspired by other people’s work and meet some awesome people. When you actively shoot every week you will be amazed at the portfolio of work you can begin to build and you will see the improvement on your work in leaps and bounds!
It’s not too late to join the CameraShy Take 52 Challenge! Just click here to sign up and jump in where you are or play catch up if you like.
Since I’ve moved home to this site (IngridKellyOwens.com) I’ve been spending some time going through old tutorials that I’d done in my archives and I’ve decided to refresh some of them for my newer readers out there. This tutorial is all about that little +/- button you have on your camera. The Exposure compensation button. Watch the video below to see everything it does 🙂
This week I continue my series on figuring out some of those buttons on your camera. Ever wondered what that little +/- button on your camera is for? All cameras have this Exposure Compensation Button – point and shoots and DSLRs and understanding it can really make improvements to your pictures. Watch the video below to find out how!
Prefer to read? I’ve outlined the transcription of the video below!
Hey there! It’s Ingrid here once again from Camerashy. This week we are going to talk about another underutilized button in your camera and it is called Exposure Compensation. If you have a Canon, the exposure compensation button is this little + – minus button right here on the back. On some other Canons it is up here at the top, and on some Nikons it is up here at the top as well. What you are going to look out for is that little + button. So what does this do? Well, the exposure compensation button is your way of controlling the exposure of your shot – i.e. how bright or how dark it is and over-ride the camera settings. This can only happen if you are in the program auto mode, the aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode. If you are in auto mode, this won’t work. This is a really good way to get a feel for exposure without actually knowing what you are doing.
So why would you use exposure compensation? Sometimes you take a photograph and the camera just doesn’t get it right. It might be a little bit too dark or a little bit too bright. Just not exactly what you see with your eye. This sometimes happens when the photograph contains extremes of light. Say for example if you are photographing in snow, the camera sees all of that bright snow and the camera seems to darken your image down or likewise when you are shooting into the sun you need to overexpose the photograph a little bit.
So, how do you do this? Well you just use your exposure compensation by pressing and holding down that +- button and rotating the command dial towards the + if you want to make your image brighter or towards the negative if you want to make your image darker. So what you are really saying is, hey! Camera I see what you’ve given me but could you please make it a little bit brighter or a little bit darker? Thanks ever so much… Be sure to say it a nice way because this is one of the only times that you know a little bit more on what’s going on the camera does and we don’t want to offend :).
So, remember, you are not really controlling how the camera makes it brighter or darker. You can only do this by slowing down the shutter speed or opening up the aperture and this will ultimately affect how your image looks but it really does help to just give you a little bit more insight to what is going on with the exposure and so you are one stop closer again to using these modes in a more manual way. So, venture out of auto mode into your program auto, your shutter priority and your aperture priority mode and play with your exposure compensation to see how it affects your photos.
So, I hope you find this useful, be sure to give it a thumbs up if you liked it and share it with your friends.
Until next time…
Is it too early to talk about Christmas? Nah – I’m going to run with it! It is November after all and Santa surely wants to get a little start on all those Christmas lists! So is there a new camera on your Christmas list this year? I know many of my students have been really trying hard to be good girls all year so that hubby or maybe Santa will pop something special in their stocking. A new 5D Mark iii perhaps? That nifty 50mm f/1.4 you’ve had in in your Amazon wish list for months?
If you are leaving it up to hubby to decided you might be in for a sad face on Christmas morning. The smart snap-happy lady might want to give him a few pointers in the right direction. But what if you are even struggling to figure out what you need next?
Let me help you by outlining some of the main issues I see beginning photographers face.
No – it doesn’t count if you go to a Body Sculpt class at the Y every Friday morning! Cameras have changed enormously in the last 10 years and if you are still struggling along with a tiny LCD screen and hard to read menu then maybe its time for an upgrade. Features such a WiFi, touch screens and large LCD screen have become standard and you will find such an amazing change in the quality between a new T6i and the Rebel XS not only in picture quality but in ease of use.
Perhaps you are now happily shooting in Manual Mode and love the flexibility that it offers but you hate the fact that you have to contort your fingers in award positions just to change the Aperture. If it’s like a mini game of twister each time you take a shot, its time to level up! The mid-range DSLRS all have a second command wheel at the back which makes control exposure in manual mode a breeze. Check out the Canon 70D and the Nikon D5300 for this great feature.
You will also have a bigger body that is more robust but you will absolutely LOVE it!
If you find yourself drooling over blurry backgrounds on Pinterest and wonder why your macaron images just don’t look as appetizing as the blogger next door, perhaps is because the aperture on your kit lens is severely limited. Most kit lenses only open to a maximum aperture of f/3.5 which isn’t enough to blur the background and separate your subject from the background. The answer to your problem is a lens with a wide maximum aperture. A great suggestion is the wonderful “Nifty 50 lens.” The little gem has a fixed focal length lens of 50mm which means its great for portraiture but can also open up wide to f/1.8. Which will absolutely render a beautiful bokeh (that creamy dreamy background your soul has been searching for.) It magically turns your boring, blah images into something you can be really proud of . And if you struggle with having low light a 50mm f/1.8 will be your BFF.
There is a learning curve with this lens and to get the most from it you’ll need to be shooting in Aperture Priority mode or using full manual exposure settings If you need help with this we cover all this in my Get out of Auto course. (Maybe Santa will gift you that!)
If you struggle with low light in your home – and by “low” I mean you don’t have a blissful sunroom with light pouring in all day, maybe its time to up your game with an external flash. Yes, natural light is awesome but for many people its not possible or practical to get out and shoot outside all year round. The key thing with using a speedlight as opposed to the built-in flash on your camera, is that you have the ability to tilt the flash head towards the ceiling and bounce it off there to make a large soft light. This gives you the intensity of the flash without the harsh direct-on flash.
There’s always a need for a new camera bag – who says you only have to have one? Maybe one for every month of the year! One for out and about shooting, one for shooting up that mountain on a hike, one that can do double duty as a diaper bag – I could go one – Honestly I can justify anything about “needing” a new camera bag. Many hubbys might not realize that camera bags don’t have to be canvas velcro-laden, black ugly things – they can be pretty and pink or yellow (like mine!) Check out the wide ranges available from Epiphanie, Jo Totes and Kelly Moore which are all available at Amazon.com
And if its all up to you to buy a new camera, sign up here for my Free Online Workshop being held on November 18th all about Choosing the Right Camera for You! I’ll be answering any questions you might have on all aspects of camera shopping so you can comment below with your questions or ask me live on the night!
Ok ladies – have I got a treat for you! Well, it was actually a treat for me but as any girlfriend knows we can squeal together about cute shoes, cute purses and cute CAMERABAGS! Yes – have I got a new, cute camera bag!!!
As any of my students can attest to, I am constantly searching for the perfect camera bag to hold all my gear, that is easy to carry and of course, looks super stylish. So when JoTotes sent me their beautiful Gracie in Mustard to review I was beyond excited. I was also super nervous because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations but boy was I wrong.
One of my biggest concerns was space. I need a fairly sizeable bag as it needs to do double duty as a camera bag and a regular purse for a mom of littles. The Gracie is much bigger than I anticipated. It has SO much room in there for your camera, lenses speedlights ,iPad, wallet, lip balm and all the other odds and ends you might need for a day out shooting or just a family day out.
It comes with 2 straps of different lengths. currently I’m loving the longer strap and I like to wear the bag cross body style and even when packed up it still sits comfortably on my body.
It has 4 dividers inside which you can move around to suit your camera size and lenses which makes it super versatile and the lining is made of a luxurious material in light gray which makes finding things in the bag really easy.
My biggest concern about getting a JoTotes was the fact that it wasn’t a real leather bag – but hey, when I gave it more thought, would I REALLY want an expensive leather bag that could get damaged or easily marked. If one of my cute models (aka my 4 yr old or 6 yr old) spills juice or gets sticky all on the bag – a quick wipe with damp cloth or my ever at the ready baby wipe (how did I ever live before baby wipes?) sorts it out.
And check out the beautiful color. This is perfect for summer and makes me happy just looking at it 🙂 They also have so many other beautiful colors -teal, magenta, etc. That might be the hardest part of your purchasing decision with this bag!
And if I still have any guys reading thus far, you want to get serious brownie points ? Get the momma in your life a JoTotes and you will not regret it. If you can’t figure out which one to get – you cannot go wrong with the Gracie. I love it! And who wouldn’t want a new bag?
A girl can never have too many shoes, purses – or camera bags 🙂
So a big thank you to the folks over at JoTotes for this beautiful bag. Now go – run , don’t walk to get yours and let me know what colors you dig the most!
The following post was contributed by the good people at Snap Paper.
If you are aspiring to learn photography and become a professional photographer, printing using the correct papers is an essential part of the process. Although the vast majority of your images will remain stored in their digital form, some will undoubtedly find their way to the printer and then the quality of your work will not longer be judged solely on your photographic skills, but on the printed work as well. In the inkjet printing world, the paper type and quality plays a central role in the final quality of the print. In this tutorial we will cover all aspects of sourcing photo paper for your particular circumstances.
Choosing Photo Paper
Bond Paper Vs. Photo Paper – Perhaps the biggest mistake amateur photographers make is attempting to print a high-resolution image on normal printer paper. It is true that both normal printer paper and photo paper originate in the same manner, however one is uncoated and suitable for simple text printing while another contains a receiving layer designed to accommodate large amounts of ink. Printing on a non-coated paper will produce lower resolution, washed out results and the paper will start displaying waves caused by ink over saturation.
Photo Paper Size – Printing in a professional capacity is very much about cost effective printing. You want to balance quality with your printing expenditure. One area where waste may raise its ugly head is choosing an incorrect size and then having to reprint your work. Naturally, the same photo paper model will cost less in its smaller 6×4” than its much larger A3 alternative. As a photographer you should be made aware of the various options.
6×4” and 7×5” – These are two photo-album size measurements designed to fit into a normal photo album for image keepsake.
A5 and A4 – These are larger than the photo-album sizes and used to fit into various frames to be mounted on the wall, kept on a desk and so on. A common mistake is buying A5 or A4 sheets to insert into photo albums. While cutting these to size is possible, it is both time consuming and a waste of money.
A3 and A3+ – These are mostly used on a professional basis and require an A3 printer. A3+ or oversized A3 is slightly bigger and can vary in sizes so double-check the precise measurements prior to buying.
Photo Paper Finish – The finish is a transparent layer that adds a level of glare to the image. Most common on a scale of highest to lowest levels of glossiness are glossy, satin and matt. While it is possible to revert the finish of choice by using a fixative spray in a different finish to override the initial finish, you are better off choosing the most suitable finish to start with. For personal use, the finish of choice is often down to personal taste however in a commercial manner such as when displaying an image in a gallery viewing angles should be taken into account.
Glossy – Glossy is the finish with the highest level of sheen and in a commercial manner makes viewing from the sides tricky at times.
Satin – Satin can include various levels of sheen, though less than glossy finish. It makes it easier to view images behind glass.
Matt Finish – Matt does have any glare. It is very rarely used in a professional commercial manner to display work.
Photo Paper Weight – Photo Papers vary in weight from as little as 120gsm to 300gsm and more. Weight, which is measured in GSM (grams per square meter or g/m²) relates in most cases to the thickness of the paper (known as caliper), as it is a measurement of material density. While the type of base paper and receiving layer will play a role in the quality of the paper, weight is an important indication of quality. Generally speaking, the higher the weight is, the higher its quality is. It is important to select the most suitable weight to the type of print. For example, lower weights such as 120gms are often used to print brochures and posters, while higher weights such as 250gsm and over are used to print photos.
Photo Paper Printing Mistakes
Mistakes in printing photos are annoying and can be costly. Common mistakes to avoid vary from buying the wrong paper to printing on the non-coated side.
Paper Technology – Printers are available with Inkjet or Laser technology. It is essential to match your printer with a suitable compatible paper.
Wrong Orientation – Failure to proof landscape or portrait prior to printing leads to waste and should be proofed beforehand.
Printing On the Non Coated Side – Unless stated otherwise, photo paper has only one coated side (with the exclusion of double sided photo papers). Printing on the non-coated side leads to poor results and waste.
Neglecting Printer Settings – Most printers are set by default to print text and to get the best out of the photo paper you will have to adjust the printer settings. Often manufactures are able to supply a profile computer file which when opened will set your printer automatically for best results.
This post was written by the people at Inkjet Photo Paper suppliers Snap Paper. Snap Paper™ is a leading manufacturer of Inkjet papers with operations in mainland Europe and other parts. Its range of Inkjet media is used by commercial and domestic clients in order to achieve high quality image reproduction using any type of Inkjet printer.
This week’s theme was Glass – not a very easy subject to capture and it resulted in lots of various types of the substance. I choose the following image from Holly Feerrar as she obviously took some time in the set up and the thought process – LOVE IT!
If you would like to hear what I have to say about Holly’s take on the theme Glass, please click on the video below.
If you would like to join the Take 52 Challenge, its always a good time to jump in! Click here to find out all the deets!
This week we are looking at this beautiful image by Stacy Phillips.
I love the way Stacy has chosen to process this shot as a Black and White image. It makes the foggy atmosphere all the more intriguing and those trees to appear all the more frightening! If you’d like to hear what else I had to say about Stacy’s image, please click on the video below.
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
The Take 52 Weekly Photo Challenge is a really great way to improve your photography by getting out there and shooting! We have a great group of keen amateur photographers over on facebook who are always ready to jump in with advice on their comments on your work. We’d love to have you join us!