Call Us! 850.398.7796
30-A Photographer Stacey Green is one of Florida's best wedding and portrait photographers. Stacey Green is a National Photographer famous for Florida Wedding Photography and beach portraiture. Stacey Green's style is photojournalistic wedding and portrait photography. Breath taking sunsets on Florida's Emerald Coast will be the backdrop for your Seaside wedding beach portrait by Stacey Green of 30-A Studios. Our Florida Beach Portraits Photographers shoot from sun rise to sun set to cover your photography needs. 30-A Studios offers a variety of family beach portrait and wedding portrait packages. Our Professional Photographers are second to none in the industry and are Professional Photographers of America Members.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (850-398-7796) for wedding photography and beach portraits pricing questions.
30-A Studios offers custom 4x6 prints for proofing and On-Line Proofing .
Click Here For On-Line Proofing.
Click Here For 30-A Wedding Locations.
30-A Photographers favorite beach locations .
Scenic Route 30-A is an 18-mile road that hugs the coastline (Gulf of Mexico) in Northwest Florida. Along this breath-taking drive you will see sugar-white sand beaches and some very rare coastal dune lakes . Scenic Route 30-A beach communities include (Dune Allen Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach,WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, Alys Beach, WaterSound Beach, Seacrest Beach, Rosemary Beach, Inlet Beach and Carillon Beach. )
Click Here to Get Directions to 30-A
Professional Photographers Beach Portrait Pointers for Florida Family Beach Portraits Photographers
When takeing beach portraits you want to create a sharp image of your subject and draw attention to them and not the background. By using a telephoto lens like the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens it makes it easier to accomplish. The longer lens creates a narrower field of view that helps you to focus on your subject and not as much distracting background. The long lens allows you a comfortable working distance from your subject and creates a nice perspective. Thats why we usually grabs a telephoto lens for our beach portrait sessions. This is what makes us good
Family Beach Portrait Photographers.
Preferred Photography Studios.
Florida Wedding Photographers
Seaside Florida Wedding Photographers
30-A Photographers Trademark and Servicemark doing Business as 30-A Studios L.L.C.
Copyright 30-A Photographers 2007-2015 Terms & Conditions
Exposure is the amount of light collected by the sensor in your camera during a single picture. If the shot is exposed too long the photograph will be washed out. If the shot is exposed too short the photograph will appear too dark. Almost all cameras today have light meters which measure the light in the given shot and set an ideal exposure automatically. Most people depend on the light meter which is fine, but if you know how to control your exposures you can get some creative and sometimes better pictures. (The photo on the left is with low shutter speed and narrow aperture (high f/stop).
The two primary controls your camera uses for exposure are shutter speed (the amount of time the sensor is exposed to light) and aperture (the size of the lens opening that lets light into the camera). Shutter speeds are measured in seconds and more commonly fractions of a second. (1/2000 of a second is very fast and 8' seconds is extremely slow). Apertures are measured in something called f/stops (a very wide aperture is f/2.8 and a very small aperture is f/19).
You might wonder why there is not just a constant shutter speed or a constant aperture so that you would only have to worry about one control. The reason is that even though they both control the amount of light getting to the sensor they also control other aspects of the picture. Shutter speed for example can be used to freeze subjects in midair with a fast speed or it can be used to blur water with a slow speed. Aperture controls the depth-of-field which is what is in focus in the picture. Aperture can be used to draw attention to one subject (like the flower on the right) by blurring the background with a wide aperture (low f/stop). Aperture can also be used to focus everything in a picture with a narrow aperture (high f/stop). (The photo on the left is with Wide aperture (low f/stop) and corresponding shutter speed).
On most digital SLR's (Single Lens Reflex) cameras today you can even change the sensitivity of the sensor when collecting light which is called the ISO speed. The common span of ISO speed is 100 to 800. The higher the ISO speed the faster the camera collects light but it also adds more noise to the photograph than the lower speeds. For example if your trying to take pictures in dim light without a tripod you might want to raise the ISO speed in order to get a picture that's not blurry. Most of the time you should keep it at a lower ISO speed if there is enough light, but it makes a big difference when there isn't.
Low shutter speed and slightly narrow aperture (pretty high f/stop)
The best way to learn how to use shutter speed and aperture is to just keep experimenting with them.
The use of light in a photograph can be the deciding factor of whether that picture will be spectacular or terrible. When you use your camera to automatically chose aperture and shutter speed, what your camera is actually doing is using the built in light meter and measuring how much light is being reflected to the camera.
But that doesn't mean that's all there is to it. You should also think about the angle of the light entering the frame, what kind of shadows you want, and whether you want to use fill-in-flash (using flash to light the subject if you have a really bright background). If you are shooting at night you can create all sorts of cool effects like lights in motion, pictures with moonlight, or silhouettes like the one shown here. The following are just some examples of all the possibilities.
The angle of light should be taken into careful consideration whenever you feel like you want to create a specific effect. Shadows can be very powerful when cast over half of someone's face. In this photo on the left the light is striking the statue's face from the rear right of the camera and this adds more depth to the picture. It also adds more coloring because if front-lighting was used his face would likely be over exposed, and if back-lighting was used his face would just be black like a silhouette.
The effect of rays of light indoors and outdoors. can be very spectacular. A brilliant part of some great photographs is the ability to see actual rays of light. Whether it be in the setting of a brilliant sunset, light pouring through a window or from artificial lights it can look very impressive. Usually the only way to obtain something like this is a narrow aperture (high f/stop) and a very slow shutter speed.
Silhouettes are another interesting example of using light. The way to create a silhouette is to have significantly brighter light coming from behind the subject. In doing this it is important to take your camera light reading off of the background instead of the subject in order for the camera to adjust for an exposure based on the backlight. If you do this the subject will be successfully underexposed like in the picture at the top of this page.
If you keep experimenting with different ways of using light you will find that you can get very interesting results. The longer the exposure, the more fascinating the results with light most of the time. In the picture on the right, this is a long single exposure and yes that is the same person in two places. If your wondering how this was possible, here's how.
The shutter speed was set for around 30 seconds, the camera was set on a tripod and someone stood next to the camera with a flashlight. The subject then stood in one place while the flashlight was pointed at him and moved in an up and down motion. After around 15 seconds the flashlight was turned off and the subject was told to move to his left. Then the flashlight was pointed at him again and moved up and down until the camera finished the exposure.
In portrait photography there are a few guidelines that you should review and think about when you take pictures of people. The three general types of portrait photography are: close-ups or facial shots, upper body shots, or environmental portraits (where you focus on the subject and the surrounding environment that gives the subject character).
Some of the best portraits are where the subjects look completely comfortable like their not looking at a camera. When people try to smile or make a certain kind of face for the camera it usually doesn't seem very genuine. The trick is to capture the image when the subject(s) aren't necessarily focused on the camera. The main purpose of portrait photography is to capture the essence of the subject(s). Different people have different techniques for doing this, one of which is taking a picture while the subject is planning on smiling and then take another couple while they are recovering. Or another way would be to tell a funny joke where they can't help but genuinely laugh and smile. But probably the best way is just to catch them off guard by waiting for the right opportunity and snapping a picture right when they look at you not expecting a camera.
Close-up portraits usually have the subject's shoulders and head or less. They are basically framed around the face. These are the best to capture expressions and glamour shots. It is very important to have the light coming from a good angle for these. If you want to accent wrinkles or small details you should have the light coming from the side or from the top. If you want flattering pictures you should take these on a day that's cloudy so there is a lot of diffused light and therefore no shadows.
You will get the best results if the subject is brighter than the background so there is not much distraction. For these you should use a wide aperture (low f/stop) to make the background out of focus and less of a distraction. Professionals usually use a fixed telephoto lens that's 90 mm or a little higher for portraits for the reason that it de-emphasizes the subjects nose or any other unflattering feature because at that far away the nose or any other significant feature doesn't seem closer to the camera than the rest of the face.
Upper body shots or midrange portraits are a little less personal than close-ups. These are easier to get satisfactory results from mainly because your subject is probably more relaxed plus you can include a little of the background. These are probably the most commonly used for single subjects and multiple subjects. The ideal lens would be around a 90 mm fixed telephoto lens but if there's many subjects in your frame you will need more of a wide-angle lens. These are usually used to mark occasions such as graduation, school yearbook, birthdays etc...
Environmental portraiture are portraits that let us into the life of the subject. These usually include the whole subject in a scenario or partaking in some hobby that they enjoy. These are best for telling a story to the viewer about the subject in the pictures. Photojournalists almost always use these to look into the lives of interesting people. These also work very well in Black and White.
Black and white photography is a rewarding and challenging field of artistic photography. Even people who don't care about photography can find themselves drawn to a great black and white image. As a photographer, black and white can allow you to discover a whole new character in a familiar subject. For many digital photographers, black and white photography is nothing more than colour photography converted by software. It is a matter for your own judgement whether this is effective for your photographs.
Often the image you assume will convert beautifully to black and white will prove a disappointment; sometimes a photo you never imagined will surprise you. However, most serious photographers will tell you that the best black and white photos are taken when the photographer deliberately sets out with black and white images in mind. This creates an entirely different mindset in terms of how you choose and approach your subject. You may, for example, start to see potential in subjects you would never normally consider for colour photography.
If you have never had a serious go at black and white photography, here are a few simple tips to help you get started.
Black And White Photography Tip #1. Choosing A Subject. Some subjects lend themselves to colour but are not nearly so effective in black and white. For example, sunset photographs rely on the colour of a great sky for their impact, and rarely produce a good black and white image. Colourful birds, flowers, fashion...there are many times when the only logical approach is to shoot your subject in colour. On the other hand, some subjects are ideally suited to black and white photography.
Because this is an 'old-fashioned' medium, it often works well with old-fashioned subjects. Rustic items like old farm equipment, a tumble-down shack, an old wooden fence can all be great subjects for black and white photos.
When photographing people, age can also be a factor. A close-up portrait of an aged face showing all the lines and creases of their years on earth can have much greater impact in black and white.
This can only be a short article, so these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. You will find many great subject once you start thinking in black and white.
Black And White Photography Tip #2. 'Seeing' Your Subject In Black And White. When you first approach your subject, you need to imagine how it will look without colour. Try to look at it in terms of lines and shapes, shadows and contrasts. You will begin to see your subjects in a whole new light. You may even find yourself zooming in on a particular feature, or photographing the subject from an angle you might never have considered in the past. One thing is for sure; once you get into the 'black and white headspace' your camera will express the character of the subject in an entirely different way.
Black And White Photography Tip #3. Use The Light To Enhance Impact. Because a black and white photo relies so much on shadows to define shapes and details, your approach to lighting can make or break an image. As a nature photographer, I often photograph black and white photos quite differently from colour photos.
You have probably heard the rule that the best landscape photography is done early or late in the day when the sun is low and the light is soft and even. Well, in black and white photography I often look for just the opposite. To create better definition in a subect I will often take my photos through the middle part of the day, to create heavier shadows to emphasise the lines and shapes in the composition. I am also more inclined to take photos looking directly toward the sun, to produce silhouettes that make the most of trees, windmills and other strong shapes against the sky.
Earlier I mentioned a portrait of a very old person. If it is the lines on a face that give the image its character, you need to make sure the lighting is from an angle that produces shadows in the creases. Thus you may be looking for lighting in a black and white photograph that would be considered unflattering and unsuitable for a colour photograph.
So there you have three very simple tips for black and white photography. Notice that they are all about the creative approach, not about settings and camera techniques. In fact most of the time, black and white requires no different technical expertise than colour photography. To take better black and white photographs, you don't necessarily need to change the way you use your camera. Instead, you are looking to change the way you see the subject, and how you can use light, shade and composition to capture the character that black and white photography has to offer.
If you love photography and want to stretch your horizons, I am sure you will enjoy experimenting with black and white. It may open your eyes to aspects of your world that have never turned you on before. Good luck and happy snapping!
Composition is the combining of distinct parts or elements to form a whole. In photography that thought is very important in taking good pictures. The following guidelines are just to be thought about though, it is not necessary to try to use them with every picture you take or there wouldn't be any creativity in your work. Once you learn these rules and strategies you will be more prepared to find great picture spots and opportunities.
Before you just step up and take a picture you should consider what you want your viewers to look at and how you should display main points of interest. You should ask yourself, what is the main subject? What angle should the light be hitting in my picture? Is there anything that could accentuate the main subject? Where should the main subject be in the frame? These are all important things you should consider, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to follow the rules exactly.
The Rule of Thirds has been used for centuries and is probably the most important of all the composition techniques. The Rule of Thirds means that the frame can be divided into three horizontal sections and three vertical sections and therefore, where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect makes an ideal location for the more important parts of your picture. By locating your main subject at one of the four intersections you give the subject more emphasis than if it was right smack in the middle of the picture. This is also a good technique if you have more than one important subject, the intersections can still work even if there's a subject on more than one. The divisions can also be helpful in setting up a picture, they can for example, help you determine how much horizon you want. Most famous photographs or paintings in the world today have the rule of thirds applied to them in some way.
Simplicity is the method of keeping the information in a photograph relatively simple. If your main subject is close, then your background should be very simple to avoid distractions. You should try to keep everything not important much less interesting than what's important in the frame. Especially avoid lines or objects that lead the eye away from the subject.
Framing is the tactic of using natural surroundings to add more meaning to your subject. It could be anything such as bushes, trees, a window, or even a doorway like in the picture at the top of this page. In the process of doing this you need to be careful that you don't only focus on what's framing your subject. Make sure you focus on the main subject, and also it is a good idea to use a narrow aperture (high f/stop) to achieve a high depth-of-field. It also wouldn't hurt if the part of the picture framing the subject was darker so make sure you take your light reading on the main subject.
Texture can add a significant amount of interest in any picture. When people see texture in pictures they start imagining what it feels like to touch what's in the picture. Texture is a good idea when your taking pictures of rocks, walls, surfaces, someone's hands, or leaves. In order to make a picture reveal a texture you must make sure the light is coming almost exactly from the side of the surface so it creates shadows in places key places.
Leading Lines are used to lure the eye deeper into a picture or to an important subject. Straight, curved, parallel, or diagonal lines are all good at promoting interest. Good examples could be roads, rivers, streams, bridges, branches, or fences but there are endless things that could be used.
Colors are what add heart and emotion to your pictures. Certain color configurations can inspire awe and amazement in onlookers. Colors can be used to add all sorts of accents and effects, but you must be careful to not draw attention away from the main subject.
It might not be a bad idea to keep these key terms with you when you practice taking pictures. The best way to learn and improve your composition is just lots of practice and experimenting.
Photography at night can be used to create amazing pictures. For this kind of photography a tripod is almost a must. If you want to get a clear exposure with a great depth-of-field, then you will need a tripod. Usually when we take pictures of sunsets or bright lights we just center all the coloring and shoot the picture.
But something that you should think about doing is adding some foreground item to frame and then shooting which will create a greater depth to the picture, and most of the time make the results look even more brilliant. This picture above was framed with two overhanging trees and a railing. The aperture was very narrow (high f/stop), and the shutter speed was about 10 seconds. Even though a tripod was used, the self-timer was used also, to eliminate any shake.
When photographing sunsets you should not only include foreground items but use the rule of thirds, specifically the horizontal section of thirds so you get a good perspective on the scene. The sunset picture right here was split up into about 2/3's foreground and 1/3 horizon, but this same picture would probably still look good with 1/3 foreground and 2/3's horizon. Also, when you take the light reading with your camera make sure you don't point it directly at the sun, if you do your picture will be underexposed. Take the light reading from the coloring around the sun so you get an exposure that is ideal to accent all the colors.
When trying to photograph fireworks or lightning you will definitely need a tripod. There are different techniques to doing this but probably the easiest is just setting your camera up pointed at a good range of sky and setting the aperture narrow (high f/stop) and setting the shutter speed very long or just by using the "bulb" function of shutter speed (the "bulb" function allows you to open the shudder and close it manually, so its not on a set time). Many people try this in different ways so its just good to experiment and try different things.
I just returned from a trip through Europe as a tour photographer and gained some useful knowledge that could be helpful to any photographers, amateur or professional who are planning a trip. This article deals with: obtaining the necessary equipment, carrying the equipment and always being in the right place at the right time. If you are hoping to get a professional collection of pictures from a vacation or group tour in a far away place you should definitely consider some of these issues. If you would like to see a collection of my personal photos from some of my trips (in which I used these techniques) please visit the wallpaper galleries.
My Personal Equipment Preparation
Through many photography trips I gradually developed a strategy for traveling lightly and conveniently with a sufficient amount of camera equipment. On long trips I typically take along two cameras; one digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera and one small digital point-and-shoot camera. For the SLR camera I take two lenses; one midrange telephoto lens (70-200 mm) and one fixed wide angle lens (24 mm). With these two types of lenses you will be ready for effective people pictures and beautiful landscape and scenery photos.
In addition to the cameras I absolutely always have some sort of tripod readily available whether it is the simple mini type or the full size larger type (for traveling you should make sure the tripod is made out of a light-weight material). For memory storage I take a larger memory card for the SLR and typically a smaller capacity card for the point-and-shoot camera. I also recently purchased an ipod so as soon as the memory cards are full I just unload them onto my ipod.
Carrying the Equipment
For long trips that are full of photo opportunities I only carry one shoulder bag for my photography equipment. I keep the SLR camera in the bag with the extra lens that I am not currently using. I then carry the smaller point-and-shoot camera in the pocket of my cargo pants or shorts. The newer small digital point-and-shoot style cameras have developed so much that sometimes I feel that the photos I obtain from that camera are better then the SLR camera’s photos. If you keep a small camera in your pocket then you will always be ready for spontaneous photo opportunities (mainly people pictures). And that way you won’t always have to have a huge camera hanging around your neck which in many places will make you an instant target for professional pick pocketers.
I can’t emphasize how important a tripod is on vacation trips. I am thoroughly convinced that the best pictures I have taken have either been at sunset or at night with long shutter speeds made possible by the use of a tripod. It has also come in very handy for architectural photos inside many cathedrals and buildings that have huge areas that are not very well lit.
Techniques for Professional Travel Photos
Of course for effective photos you should read some articles on composition, exposure, shutter speed, and aperture. But there are also many other issues that I have realized are very important for travel photos. For pictures of landmarks or landscapes you should make sure that you have some kind of foreground and background so your viewers will have a good perspective of what it would be like to visit the site themselves. You should also make sure that you take plenty of photos from one scene with different combinations of exposure settings and angles. I usually only find about 1 photo out of 10 that I really like even though all ten photos are taken of the exact same place. And remember that you will probably want to make sure that you get at least one good photo of each spot since it is likely that you won’t return any time soon.
For people pictures it is important to get photos of the people that may be accompanying you on your trip as well as some photos of people native to the area that you are visiting. When people are looking at photos following a trip they like to see both photos of them visiting certain spots as well as close ups of them enjoying themselves or focused mainly on their facial features. On the occasions that I have been hired to accompany a tour and prepare a slide show I found that the photos that the people enjoyed the most were of them enjoying a funny moment or of someone doing something silly that makes them look like an ignorant tourist. But they also enjoyed seeing photos of some of the interesting kinds of people that they met in the foreign environments. One example of this is on my recent visit to Germany I took many pictures of the crazy soccer fans who were cheering in the streets and waving flags.
There is a seemingly endless supply of things you can learn about travel photography, but I would say that the most effective technique is just to take a lot of photos and a wide variety of photos.
Gorgeous landscapes, early morning fog lifting off the frozen lake, the glistening icicles on the tree branches. Photography opportunities meet you at every corner.
When your winter vacation takes you to the secluded, covered in snow, corner of Ontario; and you just discovered that perfect winter paradise scene; now you want to get it on film, or store it for latter so you can plaster it all over your desk top... Or maybe your children build that perfect snowman and you need to make a digital record of it, so you can show it to their children someday...
There are countless reasons to take pictures in winter time. But heard the horror stories about the underexposed snow scenes, or foggy lenses...
If you are convinced that trying winter photography will only leave you with less then perfect prints, you don’t need to worry.
The art of winter photography is no longer reserved for the professional, you too can have exceptional results with your digital or 35mm camera.
First things first, if you plan to take spectacular winter landscape photographs, you will need to get yourself ready for the cold. As with dressing for any other winter outing, it is best to put on layers, as opposed to one bulky piece of clothing. You can always take off layers if the weather changes.
Wear appropriate winter walking shoes, ones that will grip the snow and ice and not slide on it. We don’t want you dancing on ice, sliding and slipping. You may not only fall, damage your camera but also become a suitable object for other photo enthusiasts out there. So lets get some good winter boots.
Other things that you need are warm hat and a pair of thin, warm gloves. It is so much easier to take pictures wearing a slim glove and not the fat, bulky one. If you wear thick gloves, it may be nearly impossible to operate your camera, especially if it is a manual focus one. You may need to take the gloves off, exposing your hands to the cold, winter air. Your hands will quickly become cold and stiff and the photo session will be over...
Since you are ready, now we have to take a look at your camera. First thing that will happen when you step outside, will be a fog on your lens. To overcome this, simply wait couple of minutes and let the optics adjust to the temperature. The fog will disappear with time. Please be patient and do not try to wipe it off. You may not only damage the lens, but also smudge it, so when it does adjust to the cold, the smudge will dry up and be impossible to remove on the spot.
Make sure that your camera is protected from snow and water. If the snowflake lands on your lens it will melt and smudges will form, just like described above. So keep your equipment well protected and covered, if it is snowing outside.
Winter photography requires an equipment that will stand up to freezing temperatures. The film cameras or SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras are better choice for outdoor, winter photography, because they have a much sturdier parts. The Digital Cameras may fail you in very cold conditions. You may avoid this by keeping the batteries warm or changing them for fresh, warm ones if needed. You can warm up the batteries by holding them in your hand, or in the car.
The winter landscape, beautiful as it may be, is quite tricky. It’s just like shooting the high-key studio portrait. Majority of the landscape is white, the background and foreground are bright and the camera’s exposure meter will tend to give you the wrong reading, resulting in underexposed shot. In order to avoid this problem it is a good idea to switch to the manual program and take the picture by overexposing it by one stop.
Sometimes the winter will serve up some gray skies and you may think that your pictures will look equally gray and sad. That may not be the case; you have several options in this case. The first would be to use the gray sky to your advantage, that moody color may add more character to your image. You will have a grater opportunity to showcase the full spectrum of the gray scale, visible in the winter sky. When you are finally tired of the gray, try to shoot from such an angle that the sky area is not as visible. Another option is to use a gradual coloring filter to visually change the sky color.
Besides shooting the grey sky, you may consider other choices for your winter photography project.
If you have a dog, take it with you on your shooting trip. It may surprise you how playful dogs can be in the powdery snow. The picture of the friendly mutt’s face covered with the white fluffy stuff will make your heart melt.
If you lucky enough to be by the water somewhere, make sure to take some shots of the frozen surfaces if it’s a lake or maybe the spectacular frozen river scene with just a trickle of water coming through onto the cascading stones.
The country scene with a crooked, old barn surrounded by sparkly branches of low growing bushes covered with ice. Make sure that your scene composition is done in your viewfinder, so it is balanced and perfect, not on your computer.
With Digital cameras, and the flexibility of processing that they offer, you have the greater ability to choose the finished format of your photograph. The winter scenery may work well in the wide landscape format.
Other options for outdoor winter photography may include horses in the pasture, colorful birds at the feeder, wild animals in the forest.
Your children will provide the endless array of images that you can work with. Just remember to dress them in layers and let them have fun. Make sure to get down to their level, and get in close. If you are afraid to spoil their fun, or you know that they will be camera shy, step back, use a telephoto lens and a tripod for stability. The final results will be well worth the hassle.
If you are lost for choices in winter photography themes, you can always try the close-up shots. The beauty of the frozen patch of grass, sparkling in the sun on the background of glistening snow, may be discovered only through the viewfinder of your camera.
So be brave, dress warmly, get out there and shoot, the world of winter photography awaits you!
There are many situations in the world of photography where you will have to decide how you want to capture a moving subject. Whether it is an athlete running down the field or a bird swooping over the water there are many different photo outcomes possible. You could end up with everything in the scene perfectly displayed without any blur or you could end up with the subject in focus while the background is blurred from panning. In this article we will discuss the different techniques you could use in order to end up with different results.
Freezing the Motion
If you would like to freeze the motion of the subject along with the motion of the background, you should use a very high shutter speed. I would use a shutter speed of at least 1/300th of a second in order to make sure that you freeze everything. But there are other subjects you might find that will be moving unusually fast such as cars or thrown objects. If you would like to freeze a faster moving object you will probably need to use a shutter speed closer to 1/1000th of a second or faster. This shouldn't be a problem now because the new cameras are coming out with shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th of a second.
Motion Blur of the Whole Scene
If you are trying to blur everything in the photo to convey how fast everything is moving to the viewer, then you should try a slower shutter speed. Anything below 1/100th of a second should do the trick. I have used this for more artistic photos of passing motorcycles or cars as well as running animals. This technique is best used when the scene you are taking a photo of is full of bright colors. In this type of photo the subject is blurred so it is not often used, people aren't used to seeing this kind of work. And because people aren't used to this kind of work, I have seen many excellent photos like this sell for a lot of money. This type of photo also works very well with patterns in nature. Such as colorful trees waving in the breeze or flowing water with colorful reflections. This combination of blur with a lot of color can create a photo that looks more like a painting.
Panning - Motion blur of just the background while the subject is clear
This is a more difficult technique that requires a lot of practice and skill. In this type of exposure the photographer uses a somewhat slower shutter speed and moves the camera at the same rate as the moving subject. When done correctly, the subject is clearly in focus without blur while the background is blurred; giving the viewer the appearance of rapid motion. This is the most common method used by nature photographers and sports photographers when they want to show their subjects moving across a scene rapidly. Some of my favorite photos that I have taken involved using this technique with speeding dirt bikers and soaring birds with trees and flowers blurred in the background.
Many photographers work very hard to master the skill of panning. I myself have practiced following the movement of sports players with a slower shutter speed to try to follow the movement of their faces. Occasionally I would get it right and have their face clearly exposed while some of their limbs and the background blurred behind them from the slow shutter speed. These are most commonly the kinds of photos that win awards in a sports photography contest.
Motion Blur of Just the Subject (Tripod is a Must)
If you would like to have a clear scene while your subject blurs past with speed, you will have to figure out a way to keep the camera steady enough to capture the background clearly while your shutter stays open an extended amount of time. This method can obtain some amazing photos and is commonly used at night with cars and headlights. I'm sure you have seen photos of a freeway at night with the headlights of cars making lines through the exposure. This definitely required some sort of tripod and a very long shutter speed; a shutter speed probably multiple seconds long.
When I use this method I usually set my camera up on a tripod of some sort and simply set the self-timer so I don't have to hold the shutter button down and risk moving the camera. By setting the self-timer the camera automatically takes the photo after somewhere around 10 seconds so you don't have to hold it. The best night photos I have taken involved using this technique while some cars or trains sped through the scene leaving their trail.
Landscape photography has the ability to take your viewers into another place without actually being there. Anybody can pick up a camera and take a photo of an interesting place, but it takes a careful and mindful photographer to take a landscape photo that is truly compelling. Most of the really impressive landscape photos that you will see have a few common elements. They have some type of foreground element, some type of framing element, and they all comply with the rule of thirds in some way.
In order to show the depth of a landscape it is very important to include some type of foreground element. Without something in the foreground, the viewer has no way to distinguish distances or sizes; everything looks more flat and closer to the camera. A foreground element adds a substantial amount of improvement to what would be a drab amateur photo. But when using foreground elements in landscape photos make sure you use a very narrow aperture (high f/stop) so the whole scene will be in focus.
Just about anything can be used as a foreground element but of course some things work better than others. For example, when I am taking landscape photos in the Napa Valley I always include some grape vines close to the camera leading off into the distance. That way, the viewer’s eye is drawn into the photo more effectively because the grape vines lead the viewer’s eyes deeper into the photo. The vines also perform the function of providing the viewer with some idea of the size of the Napa Valley because the vines in my photos go from being large when they are close to the camera to being tiny as they lead off into the distance.
Some photographers like to use foreground objects that are really more like subjects. One example of this would be a boat sitting on a long beach or a car staring down a long road. Other photographers like to use simpler foreground elements such as long grass with large fields in the background or a rusty railing with a city standing in the distance. Sometimes when foreground elements and background elements don’t seem to fit together the result can be even more compelling. A good example of this would be photos taken from Central Park in New York City with grass and trees in the foreground and massive corporate buildings in the background.
Framing is the tactic of using natural surroundings to add more meaning to your subject. It could be anything such as bushes, trees, a window, or even a doorway. A good example of this would be tree branches that occupy the top part of the frame pointing out at your landscape. I once saw a great photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the photo was from a distance and it had tree branches covered in pink flowers in the foreground all pointing towards the Eiffel Tower that was off in the distance. Framing elements commonly either add more meaning to the subject by surrounding the subject or by simply pointing in the direction of the main subject.
In the process of doing this you need to be careful that you don't only focus on what's framing your subject. Make sure you focus on the main subject, and also it is a good idea to use a narrow aperture (high f/stop) to achieve a high depth-of-field. It also wouldn't hurt if the part of the scene framing the subject was darker so make sure you take your light reading on the main subject such as in a shadow filled archway leading into a large courtyard.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds might seem overused and artistically unnecessary, but the photographers who hold true to the rule tend to create the nicest landscape photos. Since landscape photos are so broad they need some type of structure that the rule of thirds provides. The rule of thirds means that the frame can be divided into three horizontal sections and three vertical sections and therefore, where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect makes an ideal location for the more important parts of your picture. For landscape photographers, the divisions can also be very important in setting up a picture; they can for example, help you determine that only 1/3 of the photo should be foreground or horizon.
Why is having a consistent workflow so important?
At some point, most photographers develop a series of routines for capturing, copying, and processing their digital photographs. These routines can be sloppy and unorganized or they can develop into a consistent workflow that speeds up the entire editing process. Consistency in how you handle your images after they are shot is nearly as important as the techniques you employ to compose and shoot your images in the field. In this paper, I am going to describe my own digital workflow, from the time my shots leave the camera, to the basic editing adjustments I make to nearly all my final photographs in Photoshop, to finally saving and backing them up on my computer. My hope is to provide you with some ideas that might help improve your own digital workflow.
Shooting in RAW format
I shoot almost exclusively with a Canon DSLR camera in RAW format. Shooting RAW images allows me to easily make adjustments to the color temperature and exposure (often up to two stops in either direction) of my shots in Photoshop Camera RAW. I am usually very methodical in making sure that the color temperature settings in my camera match the lighting that I am using; however just like everyone else I occasionally make mistakes. The same is true for manually setting the aperture and shutter speed. Once in a while I find it necessary to make exposure adjustments to an otherwise decent image after a shoot. One example of when this occurs most often to me is with images I shot as the sun was rising or setting. Dusk and dawn lighting changes so quickly and is so dynamic that it is easy to slightly underexpose or overexpose a series of shots. Because RAW images are lossless and contain all the information available in the photograph, this format offers a great deal more latitude than JPEGs. If I need a large number of JPEGs (e.g. a client request or to post on the web), I can always convert them using Photoshop's batch processing feature to automatically resize and save many RAW images into JPEGs in a very short period of time. Consider shooting in RAW format if you want the most leeway and highest quality possible.
Copying the images to the computer
Immediately after shooting a series of images, I copy them to my computer using a compact flash (CF) card reader. Avoid connecting your camera directly to your computer. It is going to be much slower, more awkward, and needlessly wastes your camera battery. Transferring images this way also ties up your camera and forces you wait before you can shoot again. Most CF card readers connect directly to the computer with USB 2.0 or Firewire (IEEE 1393) cables and are relatively inexpensive. Just pop the CF card into the reader and off you go!
DIM allows you to specify in advance the naming convention and location for all the images you move from your CF card to your computer. I specify my images to be downloaded into folder named for the date of the shoot (e.g. 10_30_06) and each image in the folder is assigned a name after the date and time it was taken. This information is taken from the EXIF data of each image and is all done automatically by DIM. I simply insert my CF card into the card reader, launch DIM, and click "Process." DIM takes care of the rest of the work for me. When the program is finished running, my images have all been renamed and are waiting for me in a master folder along with the rest of my previous work. DIM is a great tool for moving, sorting, and naming your photographs and supports most image formats.
Other alternatives include moving your images manually using Windows Explorer or using Photoshop CS2's Copy and Batch Rename feature. This can be found by going to Tools > Batch Rename in Adobe Bridge. Some experts suggest adding a short description along with the date and time as part of your naming convention for each shot. This is a great idea; however I have found it creates overly long file names so I just stick with the date and time. You can add keywords to the metadata (discussed later in this paper) for quick searching. You can also create contact sheets with thumbnail images from each shoot to help quickly locate specific shots.
Once the images have been copied onto your computer, it is safe to remove the CF card from the reader. Before pulling the card out, right click the remove hardware icon located in the Windows system tray (found in the lower right corner of the screen) and select Safely Remove Hardware. Macs follow a similar process.
Back your images up!
The next step I take is to copy all my RAW images to DVD. As odd as this may sound, I copy all of my shots before sorting through them. I am one who likes to keep everything-even the botched shots. Whether you sort through your images before or after, I highly encourage you to back them up before you clear or erase your CF card. I burn all the RAW images from a shoot directly to DVD. It is recommended that you use archival quality DVDs for your backup media and to store them offsite or in a fireproof safe. I personally keep all my backed up RAW and final images in a fireproof safe.
Sort them out
With all of the RAW images safely backed up to DVD, I now open the originals in Adobe Bridge to sort through them. First I delete the ones that are obviously no good. This includes images that are out of focus, poorly composed, or seriously defective in some way. After deleting the ones that are clearly not going to make the cut, I rate the top tier shots. Adobe Bridge allows you to rate your images either by color or by assigning a one through five star rating. I usually give the images that I am happy with and plan to move further along into the workflow process a five star rating. Oftentimes this is where I stop. I tend to be all or nothing with my shots; either they are good enough to move forward in the workflow or they are not. Occasionally I will assign images a four or three star rating if I like them for some reason but know that I will not likely use them right away. You can assign star ratings by clicking on one of the stars just below the thumbnail of the image. To select only the photographs you rated, click on the Unfiltered button located near the top right corner of the screen in Adobe Bridge. Rating your images will help you quickly identify the shots that you may want to take into Photoshop to fully process later on. Apply a star rating by clicking below the thumbnail of the image.
Apply metadata information
After sorting and rating my images I then apply my copyright and keyword search information. To streamline the process I add copyright information to all the images I shoot using a metadata template that already contains the necessary information.
To create a metadata template open up Photoshop CS2 and create a blank document. Choose File > File Info to open up the metadata dialogue box. Add additional metadata information that you want to apply to any image you shoot; this should include copyright information and any other data specific to you as a photographer.
After adding your copyright information, click on the little triangle located at the top right corner of the dialogue box and choose Save Metadata Template.
Now that you have your metadata template in place, select all the RAW images from your shoot in Adobe Bridge. Next go to Tools > Append Metadata. This will add your copyright information to the existing metadata for the image. The Replace Metadata option will replace all the metadata with the information on the template.
Go to Tools then to Append Metadata.
Exporting the cache
Adobe Bridge can be painfully slow at redrawing thumbnails and metadata information when you click into a folder containing lots of high-resolution RAW files. Go to Tools > Cache > Export Cache to save this information within the folder. Adobe Bridge should be much quicker at redrawing this information the next time you return to the folder.
Taking the images into Camera Raw
After sorting through and rating my images, I open up the ones that I gave a five star rating to in Camera Raw. I make any necessary adjustments to the color temperature, tint, exposure, shadows, and brightness settings for each photograph. I do not apply contrast, saturation, sharpening, or any other adjustments at this point. I leave these adjustments for Photoshop where I can use layers and non-destructive processing. Oftentimes I can synchronize these adjustments in Camera RAW if the images I am working on where shot under the same lighting conditions (e.g. studio lighting).
Moving into Photoshop
After making the necessary changes in Camera Raw, I open the selected images in Photoshop. I press CONTROL (COMMAND on the Mac) and 0 (zero) to enlarge the image to fit my screen. Next I create an adjustment layer for levels. I establish the black and white points respectively by pressing and holding ALT (OPTION on the Mac) while individually moving the two end sliders inward until I just start to see color show through the black. Using this clipping preview option is a great way of ensuring that you are not losing highlight and shadow detail. My last levels adjustment is to the middle brightness slider. I move this left or right to suit my taste.
After making a levels adjustment, I create an adjustment layer for curves. This is where I boost or soften the contrast depending on the direction I wish to take the image. Each image is unique and requires its own precise adjustment. More often that not, I create a soft "S" curve which brightens the highlights while darkening the black tones. This type of serpentine curve can boost contrast just enough to make the photograph pop.
In almost every instance I make levels and curves adjustments to all of my shots. Beyond that, any other adjustment depends on what the image needs and what I wish to achieve with the photograph. This could include saturation adjustments, dodging and burning, cloning and healing, sharpening, and blurring. I always work on adjustment layers so that I can go back and make changes later if necessary.
If I choose to enhance saturation in a specific shot, I usually work with each color individually and rarely exceed 30 on the saturation slider.
For dodging and burning I press and hold ALT (OPTION on the Mac) while clicking on the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers pallet. In the new layer dialogue box that pops up I select Overlay for the Mode and tick the box to Fill with 50% Gray. I rename this new layer "Dodge and Burn" to help me quickly find it later.
New layer for dodging and burning.
I usually selectively dodge and burn using an exposure setting of between 2% and 15% and adjust the range as necessary (these settings can be found at the top of the screen once you select the dodge or burn tool). I have found an exposure setting over 15% tends to be too excessive and harsh. Having the exposure set lower also allows me to build up the affect I am trying to achieve. I may use the dodge tool to lighten up flowers and plants and the burn tool to darken clouds or distracting elements in the image.
Range and exposure settings.
RAW images tend to need some slight sharpening and the Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop CS2 gives you a great deal of control. I save sharpening my image until the very end. Once I have fully processed a shot, I press and hold ALT+CONTROL+SHIFT+E (OPTION+COMMAND+SHIFT+E on the MAC) to merge all the visible layers into a new single layer. This gives me the option to go back in time to redo the sharpening if necessary (since all the original layers are still present). I run the Smart Sharpen filter on this layer. You can use the same process to create a merged layer for using any of the blur filters too. Be sure to rename each of these layers so that you can quickly find them later on if you choose to come back and make changes.
While processing images in Photoshop I periodically save them as a TIFF files. Many photographers save their processed, layered shots as Photoshop files (PSD); however I have found that TIFF files are slightly smaller than comparable PSD files. For this reason, I save everything I process as TIFFs using LZW compression. LZW provides for lossless compression and if fairly compatible with most current image viewing programs. Whatever you decide, I recommend that you save your original processed images in a lossless format such as TIFF or PSD. Even if you shoot all your images as JPEGs, consider saving any of the ones you process in Photoshop as TIFFs or PSD so that you can make changes to your adjustment layers later if you wish. You can always convert a backup copy of a final image to a JPEG if necessary.
One final note about file formats. Chances are that you will be working in 16-bit mode if you shot your images in RAW format. You must change them to 8-bit mode if you want to save them as JPEGs. To do this, open up a backup copy of your image and then select Edit > Mode > 8-bit.
Backing up processed images
Each week I backup my processed images (i.e. my saved TIFF files) to a second hard drive. I highly recommend that you save these images to an external hard drive that you can take with you if necessary or lock in a secure, fireproof safe. I also backup my final images to DVDs. This may seem a little overkill; however it has saved me more than once after having hard drives fail.
Backing up my images to a second hard drive means that I have at least two copies of my processed photographs available on my computer. Admittedly this takes up a lot of space and will require several high capacity hard drives. I currently have over a terabyte of space spread out over four hard drives. Fortunately, the price of hard drives has come down dramatically in recent years making it affordable to have lots of extra storage space.
Many of today's external hard drives come with backup software helping automate the backup process. Windows XP Professional and Home Edition have a very handy backup utility that can be found under Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Backup. If you are using Windows XP Home Edition, you may need to install the Backup utility from your Windows XP CD. You can do this by inserting the Windows XP CD into your CD/DVD tray and navigating to CD-ROM Drive:\VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP. Click NTBACKUP and then Finish when the wizard is done running. The Windows XP backup utility helps speed up the process of backing up large amounts of data and can be scheduled to run while you are away from your computer.
Establish a workflow and stick with it!
Establishing a consistent workflow is an essential part of digital photography. Having a workflow will help ensure that you handle your images the same way each time and that you do not miss any important processing steps. A proper workflow will also help you move, rename, and archive your photographs and should substantially reduce the risk of losing that one-in-a-million-shot. Each and every step of my workflow may not be right for you; however hopefully I was able to present something new that you can use in your own routine. Every photographer is different so put together a workflow that is convenient for you! Have fun!
When dark clouds roll into the sky most photographers run for shelter, but the ones who stay out and brave the weather can sometimes capture the most amazing photos. Bad weather can give photographers a chance to capture rain photos, snow photos, or even lightning photos. In the world of photography the rarer and harder to capture photos tend to sell for a higher price; so there is a potentially large market for bad weather conditions if you are a photographer.
When it rains outside the moisture tends to create a shiny surface on most materials. In the cities the rain causes the streets to shine and the buildings to look gloomy. In the countryside the grass can shine with the right amount of light and droplets of water hanging from branches and leaves often sparkle. The clouds that accompany the rain also diffuse the available sunlight spreading it equally and removing shadows. I have found that rain can create amazing landscape, wildlife, and even portrait photos. Animals tend to curl up or tuck their heads into their fur in order to keep dry and warm offering some amazing nature photo opportunities. Portrait photos in the rain can also be very compelling because the light reflected off of people’s faces can often dominate the frame because the rain dampens the light reflected off of surroundings.
When it rains you will probably have to use either a longer shutter speed or a wider aperture because the clouds tend to also block out direct sunlight. In order to be prepared for rain you should have a waterproof bag for your camera as well as an umbrella or something else that you can use to shield the top of the lens so water doesn’t reach the front of the lens and leave water droplets. I also always carry a tripod in the rain so I can make sure that I can do a long enough exposure without having the results blurry from cold shaky hands.
Many photographers spend hours trying to capture a bolt of lightning lighting up the scene in their photos. Lightning is definitely one of the hardest things to capture in a photograph. It definitely requires a tripod and often requires a very long shutter speed. Most photographers try to capture lightning by using the “bulb” option of shutter speed where the photographer simply just manually holds the shutter open as long as necessary until a bolt of lightning streaks through the sky and then the photographer closes the shutter right after the lightning passes so it is as bright as possible in the frame.
Snow can change a landscape photo into a winter wonderland photo. The whiteness of the snow tends to add a nice contrast to the normal colors of a scene which makes for very effective photos. Snow photos can also make for unique nature photos and can often sell for a higher price because they are so appealing. Unfortunately some snowy locations where the very rare animals live such as penguins and polar bears are very hard to reach and require a great deal of risk and effort.
Bright and white snow can be trickier to capture effectively then most photographers think. The light readers on cameras tend to see snow as very bright so it sets the exposure for the brightness of the snow leaving the background and other objects almost as dark as a silhouette. Most experienced photographers overexpose the snow photos they take leaving the snow as bright as it is in real life and the rest of the frame well-exposed as it should be. Snow can also disrupt the camera’s automatic white balance sensor so you should also make sure that you either adjust the white balance to suit the snow or switch the auto white balance mode to the snow white balance mode.
There are many serious and adventurous photographers that have devoted their careers to getting the best photos of hurricanes and tornadoes that Mother Nature has to offer. This type of photography is very dangerous but can also provide some high priced photos that are demanded by magazines and news conglomerates all over the country. Extreme storm photos are one of the only types of photos that can bring fear to the viewers who have the privilege of seeing them. They can also inspire wonder in viewers at the destructive power and forces of nature.
Storm photography requires some durable equipment and different techniques then other more normal types of photography. Some photographers stay relatively far away from the storm and just have to deal with rain and high winds. These photographers usually have covers and lens cleaners that they can use to clear the lens of water droplets quickly before they are ready to take a photo. Other photographers commonly leave cameras set up on tripods in the paths of a storm that they can operate by remote control from a safe location. These cameras are put in protective cases and have special tripods that can be drilled into the ground.
Bad weather should be looked at as an opportunity by photographers instead of as a nuisance that is avoided. Some of the best photos that I have taken have been in situations where there was rain, snow, or wind. I recommend that all serious photographers should carry a tripod and some kind of covering that can be used shield the camera from wind and moisture if they are going on a long trip with unpredictable weather. The successful photographers are the ones that are ready and willing to deal with difficult circumstances that other photographers would normally avoid.
Capture Stunning Landscape Images During the Black of Night
Many photographers assume that once the sun goes down, so do the opportunities to take spectacular landscape images. Some of my favorite photographs were taken under extremely low light or nearly pitch-black conditions. In fact, I have found that the darker it is the better results I usually get in my images. You are more likely to pick up unusual colors not typically visible to the naked eye while capturing wonderful streaks in the sky when shooting at night. Here are a few suggestions that will help you capture great nighttime landscapes.
Scout out locations during daylight hours
This is extremely important because it will be difficult at best to find good places suitable for nighttime photography during hours of darkness. I normally try to find several potential spots where I can go to shoot during a single trip out. Look for areas where it is safe to park your car and where you might be able to setup your tripod. I have found myself standing right next to lonely country roads, in deep ditches, and over irrigation sloughs to get just the right composition. Having a specific place to setup in mind before it gets dark can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Find a strong subject to anchor your image
A good landscape image typically has something of interest in the foreground to grab the viewer's attention. Whether it is an old barn, hollowed out tree, or windy creek, try looking for something to make your image visually interesting. Also keep in mind the rule of thirds when composing your shots.
Avoid artificial light
The farther away you can get from city lights, the better your images will turn out. I have found that shooting in nearly pitch-dark conditions using long shutter speeds pulls out colors and tones not generally visible to the naked eye. I typically drive an hour or more to get to locations that have few or no artificial lights. Nearby artificial lighting will not kill a decent landscape image; however it can overwhelm the subtle ambient light that is naturally present. Remember that you can adjust the color temperature of your images later in processing so do not let a nearby light spoil your evening.
Do not trespass
Nothing ruins a night of landscape photography faster than being contacted by the police for trespassing on someone's property -especially at night (I know this from experience). My general rule of thumb is if the area in question has a fence around it, a sign posted advising that trespassing is not allowed, or if it appears that someone is caring for the property, I usually stay out. I have been pretty successful at obtaining permission to go onto private property to take photographs; however remember to do this during the day. Being respectful and courteous can help you get into places that might be ordinarily off limits.
Take the right gear
Obviously you will need a sturdy tripod and remote bulb switch for the long exposures. I almost always shoot landscapes with a wide-angle lens. If you are shooting in cooler weather, ensure you have a fully charged camera battery and even consider bringing a second one with you. Between shooting in cold or cooler weather and long exposure times, battery life can dwindle quickly.
Be sure to bring a couple of flashlights along too. I typically bring a small LED light to adjust the exposure and shutter speed on my camera so as not to ruin my night vision. I also bring a small, high intensity Surefire flashlight to quickly shine on my foreground subject to get my image initially focused. There is nothing more frustrating than staying out all night shooting landscapes just to return home to find the main subject out of focus because it was too dark. I consider a bright flashlight so important that I will return home if I forget to bring it.
Bring warm cloths and snacks
Most of my images required between 5 and fifteen minutes to properly expose. I also typically take several shots of same composition at varying exposures (manual bracketing). This means that there is a lot of lag time between photographs. Standing outside in the middle of the night-even during the summertime-can get chilly. I usually wear pants; bring a light fleece jacket, cap, gloves, and light walking boots. I also recommend wearing something reflective so that passing drivers can easily see you. Bringing along snacks helps the time go by while waiting between exposures.
Consider shooting in RAW format
If you have not started doing this already, this might be a good time to begin shooting in RAW format. Nighttime landscape images are typically shot with long duration shutter speeds and the results are unpredictable. Shooting in RAW format offers you the ability to push shots a stop in either direction depending on your needs.
Carefully consider your composition
Most of the time you are not going to see much of anything but black through the viewfinder. I usually start out by taking a short exposure of what I think is a properly composed shot. For example, I found myself standing in nearly pitch-black conditions for the shot below. The light visible in the horizon in the image was only faintly visible to me while taking the photographs. I started out by exposing the image at f-3.5 for about 30-seconds. This yielded a very dark image; however I was able to at least see the overall composition. I ended up needing to straighten out the skyline and move the composition upward to include more of the sky. After taking several short duration exposures, I was ready to start zeroing in on a proper shutter speed.
Since I am usually shooting in very dark conditions, I rarely raise my f-stop up past f-3.5 or f-4.5. Remember that each time you close your aperture down by one stop, you are doubling the exposure time. This can really add up if you are starting out with a ten-minute exposure.
Keep it in focus
Take the time to get your image in sharp focus. As I mentioned above, having a bright flashlight will make it easier to use your camera's automatic focus. This is method I prefer because I never know if the image is truly focused if I set the focus manually (since it is typically so dark). I usually focus on a main foreground subject using a high intensity flashlight. When that isn't possible, I sometimes try to focus on the horizon or a bright object in the distance such as a streetlight. I have even been successful finding a focus point by using distant stars. If all else fails and your camera refuses to settle in on a focus point, switch to manual focus mode and start experimenting.
Consider including the sky as much as possible
The beauty of nighttime landscape photography is the wonderful tones, textures, and colors you get in the sky. Each time I go out, I come back with something new. I have found clear or partially cloudy nights work best. I especially love shooting nighttime landscapes when a few high altitude, thin cirrus clouds are moving through the area. These clouds, against a clear night sky, turn into feathery streaks during long exposures. Pay attention to where the bright stars are and do the best you can to include them in your shot. I have found setting the shutter speed to 5-minutes or longer creates beautiful streaks of light from the individual stars.
Use the bulb setting on your camera
After arriving and setting up my camera on a tripod, I take several test shots to confirm my composition. At this point I also lock in on the focus. The test shots I take will range from 30-60 second exposures at f-3.5. This usually gives me just enough of an image preview in my camera's LCD to allow me to adjust and finalize the overall composition. Next I work to find the ideal shutter speed. I typically have a rough idea of how much time I am going to need to expose the shot after looking at the 30-second test shots I took. This can range from two or three minutes to 15-minutes depending on the lighting conditions. I usually try to adjust my in-camera exposure settings so that my shutter speed is at least five minutes or longer. I do this in hopes of capturing the unique and interesting colors and tones present in the non-visible ambient light. I also want to get as much streaking out of the stars and clouds in the sky as possible.
Keep in mind that each f-stop increment upward doubles your shutter speed. For example, if the settings for a properly exposed image are f-4 at 120-seconds, then the shutter speed would jump to around 240-seconds if you bumped your f-stop up to f-5.6. This can add up real quick!
Long exposures can result in more digital noise
Always shoot at the lowest ISO possible for your camera. For example with my Canon I shoot at 100 ISO. Even after shooting at a low ISO, you may find that there is a bit more digital noise in your nighttime images as a result of the longer shutter speeds. My experience has varied in that I sometimes find more noise than usual and other times the noise is not noticeable at all. The most likely place for you to spot increased noise will be in the sky. To resolve this problem I typically run the noise reduction filter later in Photoshop and then paint out areas of the image that I do not want it to affect. Noise Ninja is another effective noise reduction tool.
Remember to have fun and experiment. None of these suggestions should be considered hard and fast rules. I am always trying out new ideas. I think the key to getting exceptional landscape images is to shoot often and to be willing to go out and come back empty handed. As strange as that sounds, it has really proven true for me. Every time I head out to shoot I always hope to come back with stunning images. The sad truth is that I occasionally come back with just mediocre shots that never see the light of day. At some point I realized that this was just a natural part of learning and growing as a photographer. You just never know when you are going to be in the right place at the right time with your camera. It is all about capturing those unique and beautiful moments. Good luck!
The selections of text below are excerpts from the soon to be released Ebook titled Automotive Photography and Graphic Arts by Anthony Palmieri.
If you have just picked up a camera for the first time, or have been taking pictures for years, the information contained in this guide will ensure that you do not overlook anything as you frame and shoot that picture. Taking your photographs to the next level, by using a few computer tools, no special filters, and free clip art, we will walk you through the steps to create a picture like the one on the cover of this book as easy as 1-2-3.
When displaying your vehicle at a show, enthusiasts like yourself pay close attention to every detail down to the shine on the bolts to ensure that the automobile is perfect. The end quality of your pictures is dependent upon your attention to details. Whenever we take a photograph for a client and create their unique art we do exactly the same. Starting with the right photograph is key and we will provide some often overlooked aspects of automotive photography. Remember that you must start with the right photograph in order to obtain good and even great results
2. Digital Photography Basics For Automobiles:
There are two assumptions made here. The first is, that you are interested in color photography and the second is that you have read your camera owners manual and understand the features and capabilities at least at a basic level. With that said the intent of this guide is to help you get started with taking photographs and getting the best possible results. Before we continue, there is one thing often overlooked until it is too late that will ruin a great photograph. Shut off the date and time stamp feature. You can be sure that it will always take away from the picture or be in the wrong place where no amount of editing can account for it.
The focus here is to start with the best of everything possible and use your camera to the fullest. This does not mean that you need to spend $2000 on a camera and special lenses, but it does mean taking advantage of the best capabilities your camera provides. Even a $100 camera can create good small prints. After you understand your cameras feature menu and how to navigate it go back and re-read the picture quality section again. Once you understand that section set your camera to the BEST modes possible
2.3. Always Use The Flash- Well Usually
No matter if you are using a standard film camera, or a digital camera you want to be sure that your camera ALWAYS uses the flash. The only possible exception to this would be for indoor photography where there are halogen or other obtrusive lighting that you may have to experiment with. To force your camera to use the flash set your camera to "FORCE Flash" or "Fill Flash", not "AUTOMATIC Flash". This flash is often represented by a "lightening bolt" symbol. Automatic flash will determine if the flash goes off based upon the amount of light detected. When we tell you to use your flash in the sun, automatic flash will almost never turn on since it will think there is sufficient lighting. Using the flash helps to illuminate the shadowing areas, as well as minimizing any glare along with balancing the overall lighting. Force flash should be used for exterior shots, cockpit shots, and engine bay shots.
You compose and shoot that great engine bay shot and then realize when you are working with the photograph later that all you see if the top of the engine and nothing more. The flash will make the steering box, headers and other components stand out as well as enhance the top of the engine detail and make the colors stand out even more. The following examples show the difference with and without flash. In the first figure the image is rather washed out and with the blue not so blue and the red and other colors not all that brilliant.
2.7. Lens Filters and Shades
If you must take photographs in bright sun, such as an outside car show, use a lens shade and force to overcome the harsh sun. The other alternative to use especially if your flash is not powerful enough flash is to use a polarizing filter instead of the flash. The polarizing filter is one of the most useful filters for outdoor photography and is a requirement for any serious photographer, especially for those that use a digital camera. A polarizing filter will reduce the glare and make colors stand out more in harsh sun conditions. These filters can significantly reduce white-outs or wash-outs (surfaces with the primary color all washed out) due to bright reflections. Some photograph flaws can be edited out and touched up, however, these flaws are nearly impossible to eliminate after the fact and make look natural.
A second important tool to have in your camera bag is a lens shade. A lens shade is inexpensive and is attached on the end of your lens to keep excess light from directly entering lens. It basically provides a tunnel that shields the optics (lens), and due to its black color absorbs any bouncing light. This helps the camera to better detect the light levels of the subject.
3. The Photo Shoot - How Do We Work With What We Have
Now that you have a general understanding of how to use your camera, lets focus on where, when, and how to get the optimum environment. There are some things in our control, and others that are not, and at any one time they can change. It is important that we discuss each elements so you can decide what to do given your situation. These elements are lighting, the location, and the position of the automobile. If you are restricted to a specific time of day, then you many not have any control over the lighting, or do you. If you are photographing the vehicle at a show, you are probably limited to its position and location. Ideally you want the best lighting, optimum flexibility with positioning the vehicle. Lastly if you are going to remove the background from the final print, the cleanest background for editing is desirable. This section will help you take advantage of any flexibility and optimize your shoot given the environment.
3.1. Pick The Right Lighting
Given that we are focusing on color photography, proper lighting is essential. In fact proper lighting actually means LOTS OF LIGHT, and the correct type of light. Without proper lighting it is nearly impossible to have an award winning photograph, even one that has touched up with the best photo editing tools. When it comes to lighting you want to have an even distribution of light over the entire surface of the automobile. This light illuminates all areas, is not harsh or glaring and does not cause shadowing. Sun light that is at a low-angle such as at sun rise or sun set is often the best. This low-angle light covers the side surfaces with light. Sun light that is high in the sky such as that mid-day harsh sun must be avoided or you will have glaring reflections. This harsh light results in the top surfaces being washed out, and the lower areas being dark with excessive shadowing. The ultimate goal is low angle, soft, evenly distributed light that illuminates the entire vehicle. Also remember to keep the sun behind you and watch out for your own shadow!
3.2. Picking The Location
The lighter color the ground surface the better the lower area lighting will be and less lower body panel shadowing due to the upward reflected light. Parking the vehicle on a light colored concrete surface versus a dark asphalt surface has this is a major benefit as well as making the tire profiles stand out due to the black rubber from the lighter surface. This reflection will better illuminate the lower areas including the undercarriage and minimize shadows.
The intent for many of the photographs put into fantasy scenes is to remove the background and have the vehicle stand alone. It is important that nothing sticks up in front of any part of the vehicle and causes an obstruction. Unless your final print will be of your automobile in a grassy field, do not take your pictures on a lawn or grassy field. The blades of grass will hide the bottom of the tires as well as produce reflections and irregular shadowing on the lower panels and any reflective surfaces such as bumpers. This is also true if taking pictures on a gravel area. The tires could slightly depress the surface hiding the lower portion.
3.3. Positioning The Vehicle
Park the vehicle away from anything that will cause a reflection on it. For example, the white parking lot stripes will be reflected on the side panels and in the glass. Any building signs or even trees will be reflected and even if they are not clear, they will end up looking like distorted body work in the final print. Remember your automobile can be like a mirror and many things around will show up as a reflection and later take away from the final picture.
Position the vehicle for the best lighting. Remember that you want to always take the picture from the sun side and not the shadow side (sun always behind you). This may require that you reposition the vehicle during a photo shoot for optimum lighting from all sides. Make sure that the areas that you are photographing (i.e. front/side, etc.) are positioned for best lighting.
3.5. What Angles Should You Take
Take a series of photographs with all doors, hood, trunk are completely closed. This series should include the following shots (refer to the example pictures). In this section we will include the final photographs that were created in order to help you jump ahead and start to visualize what can be done as you look at the different angles. These are only a few compositions, and many more combinations could be created using different backgrounds and the inclusion / exclusion of various elements. Just use your imagination, and eventually you will be able to look at a vehicle and have a good idea of what the final print will look like.
4. Basic Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator Introduction
For most photography work and picture manipulation you will be using Adobe Photoshop or other similar photo editing tool. If you will be creating large prints greater than 11x17 with text, you should use an illustration tool that provides good text and layout capabilities such as Adobe Illustrator. With these two types of tools you can create fantastic and artistic pictures, and then include them in professional looking layouts. The intent of this section is to provide some starting guidelines to create some of the basic pictures that are displayed on www.PalmieriConcepts.com. Keep in mind that the guidelines and steps provided here have been generalized, however, they will point you in the right direction to create a great picture. The references in this section are referring to Photoshop, so if you are using a different photo editing tool, you will need to find the equivalent features.
The full book contains the complete section on editing the photographs and creating an image like the one on the cover of the book.
So to get started, take what you have learned here, get out that camera and have fun.
Personal photography has gone through a sort of mini evolution in the past 20 years as digital cameras have become popular. With the ability to take huge numbers of pictures, save them on computer, and share them over the internet, the cost of film and developing are no longer limiting factors. Although group photographs, portraits, celebrations, and vacations are still common images, personal photography now captures more impromptu and daily types of events. Photographs of fast moving action are more common as well as people are able to experiment to obtain the type of images they want without fear of "ruining" a shot that requires more skill to take. Capturing action can be challenging for a beginning photographer and requires quite a bit of practice to master. The following outlines a few pointers that can get the novice started off on the right foot.
1. When trying to obtain shots of action, the photographer can use one of two approaches:
* Follow subjects with the camera as they wait for action to happen.
* Focus the camera on a particular spot where action is anticipated and wait for it to happen. An example would be focusing on the basketball goal or 1st base. When using this method it is often best to observe through the Optical Viewfinder and keep both eyes open so that it is easy to anticipate shots as action approaches.
2. Reduce lag time and latency:
* Shutter lag is the delay between the time the shutter button is pressed and the time when the camera actually takes the picture. During this lag time the camera is setting the exposure and focus. Shutter lag is particularly problematic when trying to capture action shots. One way of decreasing shutter lag is to press the shutter button halfway down, hold it, and then press the button down completely when ready to take the shot. This process allows the camera to perform some of the focusing function prior to taking the shot thereby reducing the shutter lag time.
* Latency is the time it takes the digital camera to write/store images before the next shot can be taken. To reduce latency, a photographer should use flash cards with fast write times. In some instances, a lower resolution setting can be used for the shot so that the camera has less information to process and store, but this technique of reducing latency must be used carefully as image quality can be compromised.
3. Follow the action; this is known as "panning". Panning involves tracking the motion of the subject horizontally to capture the movement as it goes side to side. As the photographer moves in the same direction as the motion, a slower shutter speed is often used to allow the subject to be focused and the background to blur demonstrating the action that is occurring. Panning is not necessary for all action shots but is one method of demonstrating the movement while keeping the subject in focus. The process of panning involves the following:
* Tracking is initiated prior to taking the shot.
* The shot is taken by squeezing the shutter button to avoid any downward movement of the camera.
* Tracking of the movement continues for 1-2 seconds after the shot is taken.
4. Use Burst Mode when wanting to capture a series of movements. Many digital cameras offer a Burst Mode which allows the user to capture a sequence of shots. The camera tends to set the focus and exposure on the first shot and then take remaining shots with these same settings. This allows the camera to take the shots in a more rapid sequence.
5. Action shots can be taken from any angle. However, staying parallel to the action generally produces the best demonstration of movement and allows the photographer to pan if desired.
6. Shutter speed reminder. A faster shutter speed generally freezes action to help eliminate blurring, however a somewhat slower shutter speed can better demonstrate movement by allowing some blurring of the arms, legs, and feet as the subject moves. The type of shot desired is what dictates the appropriate shutter speed to use.
7. Practice, practice, practice. Beginners can anticipate their action shots will not meet their expectations initially. Practice is necessary and will require many shots to be taken. However, with the ability to delete images on digital cameras, practice is only an investment in time.
Photography blends science with art. The photographer is the artist who engraves his creation with light and shade. Science has gifted the artist a technically advanced digital camera for him to captivate life with it. But he must know to decipher the codes of light
And, Let There Be Light...
Natural light sources like the sun and the moon are considered the best light sources. These lights often invade indoors and make natural shots come alive. Men have created artificial lights like the ordinary bulb, the tungsten halogen lamp or the bright photoflood.
There are various types of lighting, the photographer can employ. The most common is the Directional lighting provided by flash, tungsten or several sources and can be used from the front, back or side.
Front lighting is the most in vogue but it reveals every detail. The light is at the back of the photographer beaming at the face of the subject highlighting every detail. This often results in an unexciting and flat look of your subjects. Another technique is to mystify your subject by lighting up from side. The main illumination from side adds interest and vigor with presence of dark shadows.
In Back lighting the source light remains in the rear of the subject shining in the face of the camera. So, you must be very careful while using this mode otherwise the subject will appear like a silhouette. The main advantage here is, you will be able to capture the natural expressions of your subject in an outdoor shoot, as he will not squint facing bright light.
You can employ Cross lighting where strong directional light comes from both sides. But this method is only suitable for studios with bright flash or tungsten lights.
Lighting For Digital Photography
Digital cameras may offer a wide range of easy lighting modes but there are challenges for the artist in his path to perfection. You must adopt the trial and error method and acquire the knowledge of lighting.
Most digital cameras have preset digital photography lighting modes or 'scenes' for different lighting situation. There is the indoor mode to click without flash, which is particularly useful in art galleries or museums, the night and portrait mode allows you to take pictures of your subject with a gleaming backdrop at night using a slower shutter speed.
The digital cameras provide an automatic setting for white balancing .You can determine the baseline white in your image against which, other colors will be rendered. Your camera may have a histogram to evaluate exposure in different digital photography conditions. Most cameras have various options like daylight, cloudy, tungsten and more.
What Is Auxillary Lighting?
If you want to create art using light and shadow, the Flash unit alone is not enough. Here, auxiliary lighting comes in. If you decide to shoot portraits or product shots in a studio then auxiliary lighting is not optional but necessary.
For great results use head and kicker lights. Flashlights do not generate heat like floods and spots, so are more suited for portraits. Make sure the flash suits your digital camera. If you want to shoot still shots or product shots, continuous tungsten light is the cheapest and best. A range of wattage bulbs and reflectors will help you control the intensity and direction of light too.
If you don't have money you can rent lights. Top studios have various assortments of flash units, flood and spotlights.
How to use light
Light is made up of all colors. If seen through a prism it bursts into different colors. You are free to experiment with the rainbow. Artificial lights have their own characteristics. The photographer can utilize different light sources. You can alter white setting for a different effect. Most digital cameras have color setting modes to achieve accuracy of the colors.
Direction of light is important in digital photography. People look best in diffused sidelights and backlight produces a halo effect while overhead lighting produces sharp contrast of light and shadows. Strength of light is also an essential factor. You can have placid effect from diffused lighting and sharpness from strong light.
Indoor lighting gives you ample scope to shoot nice pictures. You can assemble light as per your choice and can even harness sunlight when it enters your house to soften your image.
Outdoor shots are more challenging. It leaves you at the mercy of Mother Nature. While landscape looks good in soft light, the wildlife is captivating with fine details in bright light. So photographers try to capture wildlife just before dusk or before dawn.
In digital cameras, you do not need to worry about ISO film speed. Most digital cameras have preset ISO setting. However, experimentation is the perfect way to curb imperfection. So inflame your imagination and hone your skill. You are ready to enter the luminous empire of photography.
Flash photography is the use of a camera flash bulb in a variety of possible situations where there doesn’t seem to be enough light. The most common use of flash photography is group portraits at gatherings where there is not enough light to take a satisfactory exposure.
But there are many other situations where the flash could be used such as: fill-flash situations when the background is brighter than the subject, using the flash to light up a room and creating better coloring, or using the flash to freeze a moving object in a dark situation.
Indoor Flash Photography
In typical indoor situations there will probably not be enough light to take a normal hand-held well-exposed photo. There are many indoor flash photo opportunities you may be faced with. You may want to cast light on a group of people for a portrait photo. You may want to throw light into a room for an architectural photo. Or you may just want to cast light on certain objects in a lighted room that appears too dark for an exposure.
If your camera’s auto-exposure settings say that the photo would require a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second then you probably shouldn’t hand-hold the camera or the photo would come out blurry. The reason it would come out blurry is because the shutter would be open long enough for any minor hand shake to distort the composition. The use of a tripod or faster film will probably be needed but many of us do not regularly carry a tripod. Most photographers simply use their flash bulb when they are inside.
In order to take effective indoor flash photos there are some techniques you should keep in mind. When using the flash do not point it directly at a mirror or glass that will create a lens flare or just ruin the photo. Stand close enough to your subjects so the flash is actually effective (four to ten feet). Try to make sure your main subjects are about the same distance away from the flash as each other or some that are closer to the flash will appear brighter than ones that are farther away.
Fill Flash Situations
Fill flash fills in the areas of a photo that would normally appear too dark. Fill flash can be used for sunny day portraits for shadows on a subject’s face or to fill any shaded area that is out of the sunlight. Fill flash can also be used to cast light into a room where there are no windows. Fill in flash is ideal for back-lit and side-lit situations. In a backlit situation there will be a lot of light in the background but no or little light cast on the front of the subject. This would normally create somewhat of a silhouette effect, but with a fill flash it would balance the photo nicely. But in order for this technique to work, you must be careful to stay in flash range which is usually around four to ten feet. With common cameras in order to add fill flash to a photo just toggle the flash to go off when it normally would not be needed.
Other Types of Flash
Many newer cameras now have a red-eye reduction mode where the flash may fire before the picture is taken in order to cause the subjects’ pupils to contract. The red-eye reduction modes in newer cameras are surprisingly effective and many work in different ways to contract pupils.
A slow sync flash is for more complicated exposures and is used commonly to create blurry long exposures. The flash fires at the beginning of the exposure, but the shutter still stays open for a moment after the flash has fired. This can freeze a car at dusk and create a blurry streak in the cars path. Or the slow sync flash could capture a sunset and freeze a closer subject that is moving through the frame. There are countless situations where a slow sync flash could possibly be used to enhance an exposure. There are also other versions of the sync flash such as the rear sync flash (where the flash fires at the end of an exposure) or the stroboscopic flash (where the flash fires multiple times throughout an exposure).
Many photographers also choose to bounce the flash off a wall or ceiling to get a softer diffused kind of light commonly sought after for portraits. This kind of flash technique requires a flash that can be aimed in a direction that the camera is not pointed. It takes practice to refine this technique but many professionals come to use this method almost exclusively.
We all use cameras in our day to day lives. However, most of us know nothing more about the devices than "point and shoot". If you ever wondered how to take portrait photos of a subject with a blurred background, or how they take those pictures of trailing lights or water across a landscape, keep reading.
Light. We see it every day, and just like how we see light, a camera does the same thing. In dim light, our pupils dilate to bring in more light, so we can see better. In bright light, our pupils contract to restrict the amount of light so we can see without being blinded.
A camera will do this same thing. The aperture of a lens is the opening at which light passes through. For most lenses, this opening can change based on the camera's settings. These opening have been standardized into specific sizes, called aperture stops, or F-stops.
If you've ever bought an SLR camera, then you may have seen the F-stop numbers and not know what it meant. You may have seen it represented like so: f/2.8 - f/5.6. This means that this lens makes a range of openings from the 2.8 stop to the 5.6 stop. Just what does it all mean?
Follow me closely: The larger the F-stop number is, the smaller the opening is. In other words, the larger number represents the lower end of the scale, less light entering the camera. A smaller F-stop number means the opening is larger, more light entering the camera.
Aperture goes hand and hand with the shutter. The shutter is what lets light hit the film (or digital receiver). Remember, the aperture controls how much light enters, and the shutter lets that light hit the film.
Shutter speed is simply the length of time that the shutter remains open to let light hit the film. It is directly dependent on the aperture and the F-stop, because the amount of light entering the camera through the aperture determines how long the shutter remains open. With each F-stop, the shutter speed will increase or decrease in step. Naturally, a larger F-stop number (remember, smaller opening), requires a slower shutter speed. A smaller opening means less light is reaching the film, so it needs more time to create a picture or exposure.
A smaller F-stop number (remember, larger opening), requires a faster shutter speed. Less time is needed to create the exposure.
Opening and closing a shutter is like opening and closing your eyes. If you open and close your eyes quickly, you can not see very much, and only what's immediately in front of you may be in focus. However, if you leave your eyes open, much more may be in focus. This same principle applies to- you guessed it, the F-stop. How much of what's in front of you that's in focus is called depth of field.
A smaller F-stop will have a faster shutter speed, thus it would have less of a depth of field than a larger F-stop. This means that smaller F-stops (larger opening) are great for portraits, where the main subject of the photo is a person. By the same coin, larger F-stops (smaller opening) are great for landscape shots, where there is huge landscape that is the main subject.
So how to we go about making special effects?
Let's say, for example, we want to make a car or a fast moving person appear to be frozen in time, with no blur. We would want a quick shutter speed, because a slow shutter speed would capture too much light, essentially capturing too much in time, blurring the shot. A quick shutter speed would also mean a smaller F-stop. This would also mean that we have a diminished depth of field. Bottom line: Quick shutter speed = smaller F-stop number = more light being let in (larger opening) = less in focus (smaller depth of field) = frozen time, focused subject, blurred background.
Let's say we see a fountain. We want to show the water as moving and flowing. If we take a picture with the settings in the previous example, we would see droplets of water frozen in time. We want to show movement, and encourage blur in the water. So what do we do?
To begin on this example, we have to know what causes blur. We already know depth of field blur, but what about motion blur? When the camera opens it's shutter, it makes a permanent impression on the film (or digital receiver). If the shutter is held open too long and the subject moves or the camera moves, this shows on the film as blur, almost like smudging a painting. So rest assured, when a photo is blurred, the camera is functioning as intended!
For this photo, the only thing moving should be the water. Any slight movements of the camera will ruin the whole effect. The F-stop would need to be a high number, which would mean the shutter is left open longer because there is less light reaching the film. More of the picture would be in focus as well. Slow shutter speed = larger F-stop number = less light being let in (smaller opening) = more in focus (larger depth of field) = illusion of movement at higher F-stops, focused subject, focused background.
Tip 1: Miss the eyes and you've missed the shot. Getting the eyes in focus is key to capturing a photo of an animal. It's human nature to look at the eyes. It's how we determine emotion and how we connect. When I was in Homer, Alaska, I came across a moose on the move. Given it was early morning and the light was low I knew getting a fast shutter speed to freeze his movement would be tough, so I quickly adjusted my camera to lock the focus on his eyes, and took the shot. The majority of the picture was a bit blurry, but because the eyes are in focus, the shot was saved.
Tip 2: Use a telephoto lens. Getting closer to the action, yet staying a safe distance, is the key to photographing wildlife. By keeping your distance you allow the animal to be in their comfort zone and are more likely to get natural behavior. Safety is also a factor when photographing in the wild. Always keep at least 100 yards distance from wildlife, for your safety and for the well being of the animals. Another good use for a telephoto lens is a trick not many people know, which comes in very handy when photographing animals in the zoo that are behind fencing. If you move close to the fence (keep a safe distance) and use at least 100mm of your telephoto lens, focusing beyond the fence, with a wide aperture, you can "focus out" the fencing and take a photo of the subject with no wires! Now, there are some exceptions, such as, if the fencing is black you’ll have a much better chance of pulling this off. Regular chain link fence is gray and semi-reflective, which in the sunlight can cause a glare and is often too bright to focus out. I’ve also had some successes at trying different angles, so experiment for your best results. I often shoot with a Canon 100-400mm IS USM and a Canon 28-300mm IS USM. If you're new to telephoto lenses, on a budget and not sure what to get, I suggest the Tamron 28-300mm or a Sigma 70-300mm. I've also had great results with the Sigma 50-500 which, as of this writing, I consider to be the best bang for the buck. These lenses all work with teleconverters of 1.4x and 2.0x so you can easily extend your reach even further, often while keeping auto-focus (with Canon L lenses, a minimum aperture of 4.0 or less will support auto-focus. Above that a manual focus is your only option.)
Tip 3: Use a wide aperture. Learning the effects of adjusting your camera's aperture will go a long way toward improving your photographs, especially in portrait style shooting. In a photo of a grazing elk I shot in Yellowstone, I chose a very wide aperture to blur out a potentially busy background and bring attention to the subject instead. As you learn to control your camera you'll also find that adjusting your aperture will have a direct effect on your shutter speed. This will prove especially helpful when shooting in the early mornings and late evenings, when animals are typically most active and the light is warm and muted.
Tip 4: Adjust your shutter speed to stop/show the action. When animals are on the move you need to decide quickly on the type of shot you want to take. If you want to freeze the action, you'll need to shoot at 1/500 or faster and depending on light, that can be tricky. One option, if you're shooting digital, is to adjust up your ISO, which will make your sensor more sensitive to light and give you that needed boost in shutter speed. Now, if you want to give a sense of motion to your image, try shooting with a shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/8 and pan your camera with the animal. Pan steady and remember, keep the eye in focus if you can! For best results, pick backgrounds that are uncluttered and simple, as this will make the subject standout in the image.
Tip 5: Use a flash to fill in shadows. It may sound odd, but using a flash outside on a bright sunny day actually makes a lot of sense. In this situation, you're not using the flash to illuminate the subject, as you would in a dark setting, but rather to fill in the shadows and provide detail where harsh shadows would otherwise be heavy and dark. It's important to use flash wisely and here are a couple of other suggestions:
Be conscious of the animal and whether flash will scare them and,
There are times where your only shoot is through glass -- using a flash behind glass will ruin your shot. The glass will reflect the light back at the camera and you shouldn't be surprised if all you get is a big white picture!
Tip 6: Plan for the best light. There's nothing like a cloudy day to provide soft, even light for wildlife photography. Clouds act like a giant diffuser to the sun, spreading the light out evenly and taking away harsh shadows that are created by a bright, sunny day. Of course, a cloudy day has its challenges as well, such as lower light, which will force you to adjust ISO and shutter speed settings for stopping action and getting sharp, in focus images.
Tip 7: Composition - Framing your shots. Some simple framing advise can go a long way toward improving an image, and for those who are computer savvy, a little trick called cropping (software technique to cut a photo) can help improve composition that wasn't quite right at the time the photo was taken. The best way to think about composition is to picture a tic-tac-toe grid in the view finder of your camera (I've seen some new cameras that come with this as a feature you can turn on!) and use that grid to organize your shots. There is no hard rule, but the general theory behind good composition is that your subject lies in one of the crosshairs of the grid. Setting up your shot to lead the eye is also a good example of composition.
Tip 8: Shoot with two eyes. This is a tip I'm sharing here, but often have a hard time remembering myself. I can't tell you how many shots I've missed because I didn't see the action coming. By keeping both eyes open you'll see the subject in the viewfinder and you'll also see what's going to happen next.
Tip 9: Anticipate behavior. This tip goes well with Tip 8, shoot with both eyes, because anticipating behavior is often key to capturing a rare moment, action and unique situations. Panning the camera to follow an animal can be a tiring process, so often I'll study the animal's behaviors watching for a pattern and then use some anticipatory shooting, and a little luck, to hopefully capture that perfect moment.
Tip 10: Use a tripod. Using a tripod is one of the best things you can do to improve your photography, and wildlife is no different. By mounting your camera to a tripod you reduce camera shake, which is usually the cause of blurry photos. To take this a step further, I use a shutter release cable, which eliminates the need to touch the camera while snapping shots and thus removes almost all potential for camera shake.
Bonus Tip: Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. This tip is a no-brainer for those of us who shoot digital. Shooting digital is cheap -- technology is advancing so quickly that, as of this writing, a 4 gigabyte memory card is selling for less than $100 and you can get A LOT of photos on a 4 gig memory card. The bottom line of this tip is take photos....a lot of photos. Don't be shy. I often take multiple photos of the same scene or subject and then later choose the best from the group. This is also a great way to learn; by adjusting your camera between shots you can experiment and see the results of different settings of your camera. And, don't sweat the details of trying to remember which photo had which settings...another great thing about shooting digital is something called EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format). EXIF data is written to every photo so that later, upon review, you can see every setting your camera used to take that image.
Photography is all about capturing light on a photographic emulsion or electronic sensor. And as such the lens and film or sensor, are the most important components affecting image quality. Essentially, the camera itself is just a light-tight box with a shutter!
You've seen the wonderful pictures from the rovers sent by NASA to Mars. All detailed and colourful. You might think that they're from some huge megapixel space-age techno-beast and you'd be surprised to hear that the sensor is a paltry 1 megapixel. Bigger pixels mean less noise which is always a good thing, but where NASA put all its money was into a very high quality lens. The results show it was worth it!
A camera that allows you to change the lens will obviously give you the greatest flexibility to pick the appropriate lens for the situation. An ideal camera like this is the SLR. You can choose from super wideangle to super telephoto. Macro for close ups. Bellows for even closer close up. Attach it to a microscope. Attach it to a telescope.
PRIMES VS ZOOMS
Prime (fixed) focals have the advantage of being fast (bright) and very high quality by virtue of the fact that they can be designed just for that focal length. A zoom lens allows a choice from a continuous range of focal lengths. They are useful where you require a range of focal lengths but want the convenience of a single lens, whether for weight (only one lens), always being ready to take the picture or shooting in a dusty environment and you want to keep debris entering the camera to a minimum (you also need to think about how to change films).
This all sounds great but there are drawbacks. Zooms are slower than primes (smaller minimum aperture) and can thus make hand holding and focusing (whether manual or auto) problematic. Also due to their complexity zoom lenses suffer from more abberations than primes. Lenses from the major camera makers tend to be very good. Third party zooms vary considerably. Like everything else, you tend to get what you pay for.
Zooming is more than just getting closer. It alters the focal length and affects the perspective and depth of field of the picture. Consider whether you should zoom in and use a longer focal length, or get closer and use a shorter focal length?
Standard Lenses (~50mm) A standard lens is the usual lens supplied with an SLR. They are good general purpose lenses having an angle of view close to the human eye. They are sharp, compact and lightweight.
Small "standard" zooms have a range of typically 35-70mm (2x), 28-85mm (3x) or 24-105mm (4x). These zooms often replace the 50mm lens.
A typical compact has a zoom lens with a focal range of 35-100mm.
Wideangle Lenses (<50mm) The natural choice for landscapes, sweeping panoramas and other outdoor scenes, group shots and generally anything requiring strong perspective. In some situations a wideangle might be the only way to capture the entire scene without excluding an important element in the frame. A characteristic of wideangle lenses is a deep depth of field making constant refocusing less critical. Good when you're in a hurry or the subject is moving fast such as photojournalism.
Medium Telephoto Lenses (85-135mm) These lenses are perfect for portraits. Compared to a 50mm lens they isolate the subject from the background more and the increased focal length slightly flattens the image and gives more a natural and flattering perspective. Popular for candid photography.
Long Telephoto Lenses (>135mm) Used for sports, nature or other types of documentary style photography that requires you to be close to the action but cannot be close physically be it dangerous or timid. Like portrait lenses they are great for picking out the subject from the background.
OTHER SPECIAL LENSES
Macro Macro lenses can focus very close allowing real size, 1:1 image ratios, ie an object 10mm in size will appear 10mm on the 35mm frame. Excellent for nice close ups of insects or flowers.
Fisheye Lenses Distort the perspective to create a circular "fisheye" 180° image. A very specialised lens. Picking the correct subject is necessary but when you do can produce some memorable images. Focal lengths vary, 7~16mm.
Super Wideangle Lenses (<24mm) Like wideangle but more so, but not as much as the fisheye. Great for exaggerated perspective or scenes from restricted vantage point. Favoured lens of the estate agent!
Super Telephoto Lenses (>300mm) Longer telephotos and an eye-watering price tag to match. Can be heavy due to the amount of glass they contain. Often they have a tripod mount on the lens. You will need to tripod mount to reduce camera shake and weight of lens (unless you're after a work out!) Favoured by tabloid journalist when spying on celebrities!
Fast Lenses A fast lens is one that has a large minimum aperture and is often a good thing. The minimum aperture might be f/1.4 or f/2.8 or whatever is appropriate for the lens compared to other lenses of the same focal length. Obviously the larger minimum aperture requires larger glass elements and is consequently heavier and maybe bulkier than a lens one or two slops slower. They are often higher quality as a side-effect of the lens maker justifing the extra expense.
Mirror or Reflex Lenses It is possible to make lenses using mirrors to fold and focus the light rather than glass and are also known as catadioptric lenses. Many telescopes are like this. The advantages of this type of lens are compactness and reduced weight. Long glass telephotos are big and heavy beasts. The reflex equivalent is compact and lighter making hand holding possible. Like big telephotos, they usually have built-in rear-mounted filters. Catadioptrics also produce characteristic doughnut shaped out-of-focus highlights, or bokeh, which can be quite pleasing.
Apochromatic Lenses An apochromatic lens is designed to focus three wavelengths of light, corresponding to the colours red, green and blue, onto the film plane. This reduces chromatic abberations, or the phenomenon of different wavelengths being focused at different distances or different point of the film plane. Chromatic abberation appears as coloured fringing around high contrasts objects typically a red fringe on one side and a purple fringe on the other. Normal lenses are called achromatic and they are designed to focus two wavelengths (red and blue) onto the film place and the designer assumes that everything between will be similarly focused. Apocromatic lenses are also designed to focus two wavelengths at the edges to reduce spherical abberations. Spherical aberrations show up as unfocused portions of the frame usually at the edges and at larger apertures. To achieve these feats some or all of the optics in an apochromatic lens are made from special (expensive) glass. Apochromitic lenses can be expensive!
Varisoft Lenses Allows the photographer to adjust the amount of spherical aberration to create a distinctive soft focus effect. The lens has a control ring to set the amount of softness. Perfect for portraits. Creates more reproducible results than the alternative, but much cheaper, version of smearing vaseline on a skylight filter.
Shift Lenses With a wideangle lens the exaggerated perspective can make tall buildings look like they are curving inward (or outward) if the camera is tilting slightly upward (or downward). Having the camera perfectly vertical (specifically parallel to the buildings) fixes the distortion but might not be the picture you are after. The shift lens allow the photographer to correct the distortion so that the buildings are straight again. Great for architectural photography and for panoramic shots intended to be stitched together.
Don't use tissue to clean your favourite camera lens as it only redistributes the oily dirt and leaves tiny scratches. Use a blower brush, cleaning fluid and a lint free cloth.
HAND HELD PHOTOS
You might ask is: what is the slowest shutter speed I can use and still hand hold and get acceptable results? If you've ever used a telephoto before, you'll know that the longer the focal length the more difficult it is to hold the camera steady. That is why binoculars with ridiculous magnifications are impossible to use hand held.
A reasonable rule-of-thumb seems to be you can allow the shutter speed to drop to the inverse of the focal length. So a 200mm lens would be 1/200" and a 28mm lens would be 1/30". Naturally, all this depends on your own steadiness.
Of course, nowadays, electronics takes all the fun out of trying to hold the camera steady after a night on the pop. Anti-shake sensors and CCD scanning tricks can easily cope with moderate shaking and they seem to work well.
NOTES FOR DIGITAL CAMERAS
Comparison with 35mm The sensor in a digital camera (CCD, CMOS etc) can vary in size. As new technology arrives they can get smaller or bigger and so the focal lengths of the lens can be difficult to relate to. To solve this the focal length is often specified as a 35mm equivalent, This is as if the sensor was scaled up to 35mm frame size (36x24mm) and focal length accordingly.
Digital Zoom The most useless and over-marketed feature of a digital camera. I mean, what were they thinking? Most places quite wisely tell you to ignore the digital zoom. It is nothing more than cropping and enlarging a portion of the image with a resultant loss of resolution. It does not (and cannot) alter the focal length. Switch it off and use imaging software on your desktop PC to achieve better results if you need to crop.
Shoot in Camera RAW Format
Number One: If you have read any of my previous photography guides then you probably know that I strongly recommend shooting in RAW format. Why is this so important? The answer simply boils down to control. When you set your digital camera to automatically convert your images to JPEGs, you give up a great deal of processing control. Most digital cameras automatically apply sharpening, saturation, and tonal adjustments during the conversion process. The image is also compressed into an 8-bit file removing a great deal of the exposure latitude that you had with the original photograph (up to 16-bits for many cameras). Essentially the camera automatically applies a standard set of processing routines to the image and then throws out roughly one third or more of the data during the compression process. The JPEG file format is destructible in that it compresses and recompresses the image (and thereby removing file information) each time it is saved. If you do shoot in JPEG format, be sure to save your processed files as PSDs or TIFFs to avoid additional compression and to retain all of your Photoshop layers.
Always be on the Lookout for New Locations
Number Two: It goes without saying that traveling to exotic locations around the world is an exciting part of landscape photography; however you can find just as many wonderful places to photograph in your own area. Success as a landscape photographer has a lot to do with preplanning and scouting out potentially new locations. Scenes that you photographed during the summer have a whole different look and feel during the fall. Whether you are out photographing a specific location or just driving through a new area on unrelated business, always be on the look out for hidden gems. This might be a little known area where eagles are feeding or an abandoned farm concealed by years of overgrown weeds and brambles. Even while I am out and about hanging out with my family and friends, I always have my eyes open for new places to work.
Shoot During Hours of Dawn and Dusk
Number Three: Many of my favorite images were taken during the golden hours of dawn and dusk. A successful landscape photographer is usually willing to get out of bed well before dawn or to stay out late into the evening to capture the beautiful light of the setting sun.
I have a good friend who is an exceptional landscape photographer. He recently paid a good deal of money to travel to exotic areas of South America with a small group of photographers. He told me that when they arrived at each location he was surprised to find many of the photographers in his group unwilling to get up early with him to work during the early hours of dawn. Imagine paying thousands of dollars to travel to exclusive parts of another country to photograph landscapes just to sleep in! Having this kind of discipline must extend beyond fancy trips to other countries. A good landscape photographer knows that dawn and dusk are two of the best periods of time during the day to capture exceptional landscapes. Take advantage of this as much as your schedule allows and try to establish a routine of going out early and/or staying out late. Whether you come back with beautiful images or not, you will always be rewarded with the wonderful solace that comes with watching the sunrise and sunset.
Arrive Early and be Ready
Number Four: Consider getting to your pre-selected location well in advance of the time you actually expect to shoot. Photography is a creative endeavor and should not be rushed. If you find yourself chasing the sunset or rushing to capture the sunrise at the last minute, you are missing the point! High quality landscape photography usually requires that you take a slow, methodical approach. I think that a lot of us fall into the trap of shooting off the hip and hoping that one of our shots will stand out.
Landscape photography should be creative and not mechanical. This is a little bit like going to an important business meeting where you have been selected as group's main presenter. If you leave for the meeting late and rush into the conference room just as things are getting started, you are much more likely to give a dismal performance. In contrast, if you make an effort to arrive early, get your equipment setup, and take a few moments to collect your thoughts; you are much more likely to give a more impressionable and meaningful presentation. The same approach is true of landscape photography. Arrive early and give yourself plenty of time to transition into a creative mode.
Bracket Your Exposures
Number Five: When I worked with 35mm cameras, I was always conscious of how much film I was using. Between purchasing the high quality film I needed and then processing it later, it was always extremely expensive! Today with high-resolution digital single lens reflex cameras we have less to worry about when it comes to the cost per image (of course today's DSLRs are generally more expensive that traditional SLRs were). Now there are fewer reasons to avoid bracketing your exposures.
In photography there is nothing more disappointing than to capture what you think was the perfect shot just to later find that it was improperly exposed or even out of focus. When you can, take the time to bracket your images. Bracketing also gives you a bit more creative latitude in processing by allowing you to use Photoshop CS2's HDR feature to combine shots to increase an image's total dynamic range. Even better than HDR is manually combining images that have been exposed for different areas of a scene and using layer masks to create a single photograph with additional dynamic range. For example, the image above is a composite of two shots: one exposed for the sky and the other exposed for the foreground. This could have only been accomplished by taking multiple photographs at different exposures; the total dynamic range was just too great in any single exposure.
Use a Tripod
Number Six: The reason for using a tripod might seem obvious on the surface. For me using a tripod goes beyond reducing camera shake and taking photographs at slower shutter speeds. I have found putting my camera on a tripod forces me to slow down and really examine my composition. It is so easy to just fire off a bunch of hand held shots without really thoughtfully looking at the composition. Intuitively most of us know what we are trying to achieve in a particular shot; however taking the extra time to setup your camera on a tripod can help you slow down and pay extra attention to composition. Remember that having a creative mindset is central to capturing high quality landscape images.
Keep in Mind the Rule of Thirds
Number Seven: Sure, rules are meant to be broken. This is especially true of rules that involve such a creative process as photography; however the Rule of Thirds is a pretty good standard to keep in mind. Push yourself to try out different ideas and compositions that may be outside your comfort zone or usual style. I estimate that 20% or fewer of my landscape images rise to a level of quality where I feel comfortable presenting them to others! With digital cameras and massive amounts of storage, you can have fun with your work and try out new ideas. You never know, you may like what you see!
Do Not Forget to Look Around
Number Eight: I have to constantly remind myself to look around my environment and to refrain from getting locked into a single perspective. What do I mean by this? How many times have you been photographing a spectacular scene just to look over and see an even better possibility? If you get too focused on one particular composition, you may miss opportunities for other equally or better photographs that are within walking distance of where you are shooting.
The classic example of when this seems to happen to me the most is when I am shooting directly into the rising sun (which can be wonderful for silhouette and high dynamic range landscapes). Occasionally I get so wrapped up in what I am seeing that I forget to look behind where I am standing (opposite the sunrise). Even after I setup my camera on a tripod and finalize a composition for the scene I am photographing; I still try to remember to move around and look for additional perspectives. I typically make a point to walk approximately 20-feet in all directions staying alert for additional ideas. My main point here is to suggest the importance of remaining open minded about the other possibilities that might exist and to avoid getting overly committed to just one perspective.
Number Nine: This should be a no-brainer, but remember that you increase your odds of capturing outstanding landscape photographs if you go out in the field often and on a regular basis. If you are like me and have a real job during the day, you may only be able to get out a couple times a week. It is so easy to put off going out (especially early in the morning!) when you get busy with other aspects of life. Again, much of this boils down to discipline and creating good habits for shooting regularly. Even if you are facing poor weather conditions (e.g. gray sky, clouds, rain, etc.), push yourself to go out and shoot anyway. You never know, you might just come back with wonderful black and white images or beautiful photographs of a dramatic lightning storm.
Keep a Photo Diary
Number Ten: Keeping notes about your work in a small notebook or diary can be a useful way of remembering important details about a location or a series of photographs. This can include the direction you were looking while taking a particular shot, weather conditions, temperature, how you accessed a specific area, and any other unique information that you want to recall later on. It does not take very long before I forget unique little details about a series of images. Fortunately with EXIF data we do not have to worry about keeping track of exposure information, resolution, color space, and the time and date an image was taken; however taking note of some of the other details mentioned above can oftentimes be useful later on. These details can be added later to the EXIF file so that the information always stays with the image. Consider placing a small notebook and pen in your camera bag so that you are ready.
Recognize that You May Come Back Empty Handed
Number Eleven: This really does not qualify as tip as much as it is a state of mind. I used to get so frustrated going out to shoot landscapes just to come back with nothing (or only a couple of decent shots). I remember driving five hours to a hiking trail that I was sure would have a great deal of wildlife and landscape opportunities to photograph (from previous experience). When I arrived I spent two hours climbing to the top of a large peak that had a commanding view of the entire valley. After all the work and effort to get to the top, it started sprinkling and then eventually the conditions worsened to lighting and heavy rain (I was in shorts too!).
The deteriorating weather conditions forced me to hike back down and eventually drive home. I was so frustrated because in the end I was only able to capture a couple of decent shots. All of the wildlife had literally disappeared and the extremely poor weather conditions made for mediocre landscape photography at best. As I drove home I was struck by how I was trying so hard to force things to work that I had not truly enjoyed the experience. After considering it for a while (on my five hour ride back home) I came away with the realization that it was ok for me to come back empty handed once in a while.
Most of the time my hard work and discipline are rewarded and I capture wonderful landscape images, but sometimes I end up returning with nothing but another experience. I think as a landscape photographer you have to be ok with that and remember that sometimes you will strike out despite all your best efforts. Planning your outings, having some experience in photography, and taking the proper equipment are important factors, but the weather and conditions are-what-they-are when you arrive. You cannot control everything. Remember this and try to have fun!
Learn How to Use Photoshop (CS2 or Elements)
Number Twelve: As a film photographer, I worked very hard to make sure all of my shots were spot on. I was careful to use the appropriate film for the lighting conditions, to adjust my exposure and shutter speeds appropriately, and to take my negatives to well known and respected businesses for processing (if I was not doing it myself). After switching to a digital camera, it took me a while to grasp the significance Photoshop plays in this new era of photography. Going digital means that you (the photographer) are now in complete control of the processing. We have so much more power and latitude in Photoshop with digital images that we do not have while working with film in a traditional way. On average, I estimate that I spend 30-40% of my time composing and taking photographs in the field and 60-70% of my time later processing them in Photoshop. This means that a great deal more of my time is now spent in front of my computer than in the field. Having a basic understanding of how to use Photoshop can be the difference between simply a good image and a jaw-dropping, incredible one.
Please do not hear me suggest that you can stop worrying about exposure, shutter speed, and composition just because you can "Photoshop" away problems later on in processing. All of the basic principles of photography still apply. It is still important to work hard to get your shots "right" out of the camera, but we are now able to do so much more with the digital photographs in processing (especially if you shoot RAW images) than would have ever been possible just a few years ago. Even if you do not consider yourself technologically proficient or the complexity of Photoshop scares you, take the time to learn how to use a few of Photoshop's basic processing tools and develop a consistent digital workflow. This means gaining familiarity with using adjustment layers for levels, curves, saturation, channel mixer, and others. Layer masks also provide an incredible amount of control in processing selective areas of a photograph.
There are so many free resources available on the Internet to learn from that there are really no excuses for not becoming familiar with Photoshop. If you are a visual learner, look for free video tutorials; if you like to take a slower approach, look for written guides like this one. You might also consider purchasing a book or two on using some of the basic photo processing tools offered in Photoshop from a local bookstore (can you say Half Price Books!). Below is a list of websites that offer (mostly free) tutorials on using Photoshop effectively.
Everyone knows that in every picture there is always a center of interest. It may not be in the center per se but it should be obvious what the subject of any photograph is.
Chances are that subject is usually sharp and in focus. If it isn't, it might be framed in such a way that the viewer's eye will naturally gravitate to it.
Generally speaking, following some of these simple advice, even if you are using a point-and-shoot camera, whether digital or film, will make your pictures better.
1. Backgrounds. Usually an afterthought but this can make or break a successful portrait. Moving closer to your subject physically or moving them closer to you taking them further away from the clutter in the background reduces the depth-of-field. Depth-of-field is jargon for "how much of a picture will be in focus and appears sharp."
Because you are most likely concentrating on the face of your subject, you don't want the background to be in focus. That background especially if it is cluttered ends up competing for attention from your picture's center of interest--generally your subject's eyes.
2. Lighting. In instances when is impractical to move the subject from the background. Then what you can do to remove the clutter?
Consider lighting just the subject and basing your exposure on just your subject. A picture exposed this way immediately renders the background a none factor.
When you selectively "light" just your subject, either by opening a door or window next to the subject and turning off the room lights, you have effortlessly and effectively removed the clutter in the background.
If your aim however, is to do an "environmental portrait," then you will need to show something else in the picture that tells your viewer what your subject does for a living.
In this instance you should carefully pick elements in the scene that will "read" best. By "read," I mean choose elements which are bigger or more obvious especially if they are small in comparison to the size of your subject.
A good example of this would be if you're photographing an artist.Posing your subject, the artist, in his studio by a window or doorway and turning off all the lights in the room, leaving only a work lamp to illuminate his work on an easel is a good example of this simple technique.
If shooting in color, pay attention to the color temperature of your light sources. Using your flash or light source which is compatible in color temperature with your film or digital camera setting is extremely important. It can save you hours of post production work.
3. Lens selection. Use the longest focal length lens to enable you to fill the frame. Unlike artists who paint and draw, photographers with the exception of those who work to execute what an art director envisions, usually don't get to arrange everything in their pictures.
So they have to carefully select lenses that allow them to use as much of their viewfinder or frame as possible. In order words, they need to include only what is important or relevant. If it's a portrait, it means maybe just the face and not the whole entire body.
If you include more of the body, the less impact your subject's face will have especially if the "finished" picture is going to be small.
So telephoto lenses are usually better for portraits because it allows you to get a larger image of your subject's face without you invading their space.
Also the shallower depth-of-field will help remove the clutter of foreground and background.
4. The eyes have it all. If you have ever looked at a portrait where the subject's eyes aren't in focus, you will know this one. It's not surprising that there exists software especially in the new digital cameras that pick out faces in the viewfinder and focuses on that automatically.
If both eyes are visible, the eyes that's closer to the camera needs to be in focus and not the other way around.
I am confident if you just apply some of these four tips, you'll see improvements in your next portraits.