Things to consider before going out looking for great landscapes

After choosing the destination you want to travel, one good tip is to gather all the information you can about the locations and landscapes near the place you’ll visit. It’s good to have a good idea of the customs, sites to see, price and exchange food and accommodation, etc. Consult guidebooks, you will find lots of information and great tips. Almost all Cities and States have an official tour guide on the web.

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How to take great pictures in your backyard

You can take a variety of different photos and photo projects in your backyard, depending on what you are photographing, patio landscaping is not the most exiting option but is something you can do right now without leaving your house. With a camera and a good imagination, you have a number of different options to take pictures in your backyard.

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Great places to photograph exotic birds

Wild bird photography can be quite challenging. There are many articles on the Internet that cover everything from how to setup the camera to how to take the perfect shot when the birds are flying, they share a lot of details but they don’t have much information for an amateur bird photographer. After many experiences photographing birds, I decided to write this guide and include the best recommendations and places to take beautiful pictures.

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Photographing Inanimate Objects

The goal of a photographer is to bring a still image to life. This is particularly challenging when the subject of an image is itself inanimate. Capturing an object in motion is very different from taking a photo of a bowl of food, or a piece of jewelry.

The way I like to think about the difference between the two is that when I’m photographing something moving, I’m capturing an event. Something happened – and here is the image to show you what happened. If I’m taking a photo of an inanimate object, it’s more of an examination into the object. It’s a more detail oriented process. In this situation, my goal as a photographer is to not merely capture an object in the frame, but to examine it – to reveal its essence, not just its form.

In my opinion, this is the difference between someone who takes passport photos for a living and someone who’s a genuinely excellent photographer. Taking a passport photo is about what something looks like. ‘Here is the face of this person, so that you can verify that it’s the same person going through the border’. Taking a portrait of a person’s face is different – we’re not just trying to capture what a person looks like – the camera does that for us. Our goal is to capture who that person is – what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. What are their hopes and dreams? The very best photographs are those which capture something that the camera itself is incapable of.

In my experience, the trick to being able to do this is to know the subject. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, a building, a plate of food, or a piece of jewelry. In the vast majority of cases, the more you know about a subject, the more you’ll be able to capture its essence.

To help you understand this concept better, I’ll give you two examples of recent jobs I had where I went above and beyond in order to try and get a better set of images for the client. In the first, I was asked to take photos of a few plates of food for a cookbook (the food was delicious). I won’t name the cookbook right now as I’m not sure it’s public information yet. This chef cooks Japanese food, and although I like sushi, I don’t really know all that much about Japanese cuisine. So I went to do some research about Japanese culture, mainly here. There is a Japanese aesthetic known as wabi-sabi that is quite distinct from the western tastes. It emphasizes understatement, subtlety, and sparseness and prioritizes asymmetry and simplicity. In particular, wabi-sabi imagery usually involves large empty spaces. So when I shot the photos, I tried to emulate this aesthetic – rather than taking the typical, extremely vivid, vibrant, photos that most food photography goes for, I tried to make the images sparse, with open spaces between plates and muted colors. I tried to highlight the simplicity and subtlety of this chef’s food, and he was very happy with the end result.

Another example – I was asked to take some photos for an artisan jewelry designer. She uses less expensive gems and handcrafts jewelry out of them. My thinking was that the photos of her jewelry shouldn’t be like your standard photos of diamonds and emeralds, with black/white backgrounds and an obvious focus on the expensive materials that make up the piece. Instead, I figured I should try and show off the craftsmanship – the essence – of the client’s work. So I went and did a bunch of research on the gemstones she uses on this site (there’s a great table with a lot of information). She uses a lot of turquoise, carnelian, lapis lazuli, amazonite and various forms of agate. These are all earthy, rough gemstones – so I lit the jewelry to highlight the flaws of these stones rather than just their beauty. I also tried to position the jewelry in such a way that the craftsmanship of the pieces was clear to see – focusing on the connecting wires and intricacies of the knots and things like that.

Hopefully, these two examples will help inspire you to really dig deep into your subjects when you’re photographing them.

These are the two sites I used when I was researching:

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/articles/beauty-wabi-sabi

http://www.semipreciousstonesguide.com

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Photography on the Go

Photography is a great way of capturing moments in our lives. We can take pictures of beautiful landscapes in our country or whilst on holiday in a foreign country, sunrises, sunsets, the ocean… and we can also capture those precious moments with our families while on vacation, and also with our friends and acquaintances. Pictures are just such a great way of capturing, for almost forever, those special moments in nature and with our loved ones.

For many, many years we’ve been capturing different moments in human history and in our personal lives, cameras have developed with us to a point where professional cameras are hardly needed anymore as we all carry one with us in our pockets or bags. Nowadays, mobile phones are used more for photography and sharing our shots on the Internet than for their actual use like phoning and messaging others. It is true this is very practical as we don’t need to carry some big, professional camera with lots of lenses to capture those precious moments that only stay with us for a few seconds. Mobile phones have opened up the world of photography to many who were interested in it but couldn’t afford to buy an expensive camera. Now, anyone can take pictures and share them on the net through websites and apps such as Flickr, Viewbug, and Instagram… On the other hand, because so many people take so many pictures and just share them online, some may believe that the essence of photography is slowly being lost.

I mostly carry my phone on me when I go out and about with family, it’s lighter and it doesn’t take up as much space as my professional camera. A while ago when we were looking for a new jogging stroller for our baby and while reading online reviews I found one model that had a lot of storage space at its base. I thought to myself that it could be used for keeping my camera case when we go for baby walks and we bought the stroller. Recently, when going out with family I decided to use the stroller’s storage and to take my camera along with me to see what I could capture. Getting home and seeing the results I know I will definitely be taking my camera out a lot more often with me since the difference in quality is amazing.

Beautiful photos in crisp detail and quality of the children having fun in their little strollers, their delightful faces as they are pushed around, and all the pictures looking fantastic due to the camera. I captured amazing landscape shots with vibrant colors and photos of my family and kids, plenty of fun pictures of them playing and running around, really capturing those happy moments. A normal phone camera would not have worked out the same way.

People should definitely remember that as easy as it is to simply bring a phone along with you to take all your pictures is just not, and will never be, the same as using a proper professional camera. Why capture those special happy family moments with a phone when by simply taking a good camera along you can get all those happy memories in a great quality, capturing all the tiny details on the children’s faces as they play and have fun.

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Shooting Interior and Exterior Pictures of Houses

As a freelance photographer I end up doing a lot of interesting shoots, and although I have been doing this for some time I still end up learning a lot during some of my shoots. A recent niche that I found which might be of interest to other photographers looking at expanding their portfolio is doing photo shoots for property rental companies. Most of the images you see online are not of a good quality, and property agencies end up leaving money on the table by not showing potential clients the true aspects of the property they are trying to rent.

As they say “first impressions are important” and if the image the client sees is not of good quality, they might click over to the next option.

Shooting houses for rent by any property management company in Fresno CA is just about the best bread and butter job you can land. You know there will always be work as units are vacated and updated the companies need recent pics for their websites and online listings. What trips up a lot of pros is not knowing how to manage the light schedule, and knowing what is going to be the right shot that will turn a one-time request into ongoing traffic. I recently had to shoot some property that local house owners were going to list with a management company I am on retainer for and I thought it would be a good idea to walk you through how I put it all together.

Building the schedule around the light

The first thing I always do is locate the property on a map and look at what the lighting is going to be like throughout the day. I compare that to my availability schedule and put together options for the times to schedule the shoot. I then offer those times to the manager or owner so we can mesh schedules better. Exterior shots you can usually do on a return trip without any company, the interiors you need access so making sure that you are going when there will be light is essential. It is always easier to schedule a night shoot, and I’ll talk about what to do about that when you are inside too.

Indoor versus outdoor

The first thing you should remind yourself of is nobody rents or buys a home they see in the dark. Forget dramatic exterior options under a full moon. You want a standard high noon day. Avoid shooting the exterior when shadows are cast because the picture will start to create a narrative. You don’t want the picture to create a narrative; you want the agent to create it. When you move indoors high noon can work, but you really want to find out what light the rooms get best and go at that time. Bring your lights to shoot rooms that are shadowed.

What is the most important thing to show?

When I shoot an exterior I think about the narrative. People want to see the front as if you were approaching as a guest. I stay away from driveways but will emphasize gardens and landscaped backyards only if there isn’t a problem with dramatic shadows. You want flat and open, not drama.

How to avoid problems with windows and mirrors

Inside you are going to run into reflective problems with windows and mirrors. This is one of the reasons a “high noon” shoot works better. The general light will reduce the black mirror effect in windows. Alternately, I bring two or three light stands and bounce the light off the ceiling at a point in the middle front of the mirror. This creates an additional cascade of light that will prevent reflection as well.

Contact me if you want to know more about this niche or if you know of a property management company that is looking for a photographer to improve their online portfolio.

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Photography Tips for Shooting Action Sports

Whether you are a professional photographer or just an enthusiastic amateur, sport is an exciting subject for shots. You will never get the same photograph twice and no two photographers will get the same shot even if they are both at the same sporting event. Although it is fun, taking action shots poses several challenges for photographers. To get the best shots, you should try some of the following six tips.

1. Try Something Different

The temptation is to stay rooted to the same spot and to take every shot from the same angle. However, to get a wide variety of pictures and make them more interesting, you should consider changing positions and try shooting from a different angle. Not every photograph needs to be taken from eye-level. Instead, trying getting low on the ground and looking up when taking shots or getting at a higher vantage point to photograph the action from above. This works especially well for some sports, check out The Paintball Professor to see some incredible paintball actions shots of this technique in effect.

2. Capture the Surroundings

Sport is about much more than the players participating in a match. The whole surroundings contribute to the overall spirit of the game. To capture some of this spirit in your shots, you will need to think about the whole scene. Photographs of the crowd cheering or fans queuing to get inside the venue can be just as exciting as the action on the pitch. They will also show your diversity as a photographer in your portfolio.

3. Use ISO

When taking action shots, there may not always be perfect lighting and you may also need to use a higher shutter speed to capture the action. This is where raising ISO can be helpful. In particular, taking shots at night can be difficult if you need a faster F Stop than the lens of your camera is suited for. A solution to this problem is to raise the ISO as this allows your camera to see more light.

4. Keep Equipment Close

Sports photographers often have a lot of equipment. Although this can be a burden to carry around with you, it is essential you keep it all close by so that as soon as you need it you can just reach out and get it. It might seem easier to leave some equipment behind or to store it somewhere safe until you need it, but you miss exciting photo opportunities if you need to keep running backwards and forwards to collect the equipment you need. It is much better just to take it all with you in the first place.

5. Keep Your Eye on the Action

Photographers often have a really bad habit of ‘chimping’. This is when they check the photographs they have just taken on the LED screen on their camera. Don’t do it! You can check all your shots later. While you are looking at the screen, you are taking your eye off the action and potentially missing some of the most exciting points of the game.

6. Avoid Using the Flash

Many venues or events prohibit the use of flash on cameras as it distracts the players. If you are planning on photographing an event and want to use your flash, it is best to speak to the event organizers first to see whether using flash is acceptable. However, using the ISO settings is the perfect solution if you cannot use the flash.

Like all forms of photography, capturing the perfect action shot takes lots of practice and there is often an element of luck involved in getting a great photograph. However, by using these tips, your chances of success in this field are greatly improved.

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The Latest Nikon Cameras For Amateurs

Many friends and readers ask me this one question: What is the best DSLR camera for an amateur and hobby photographer? To me this is always so difficult to answer and I generally hate saying get a Nikon, or get a Canon, or get a Sony. So, I decided to write up a post about some your options and what to look out for.

The first thing I ask people is what type of camera they currently have and if they find it OK to use. Most people are reasonably happy with their consumer cameras and have gotten used to the menus and terminology used. This means that it often makes sense to stick with a brand you know as you will not get confused with different terminology. So, if you have a consumer Nikon, and you are happy, then it makes most sense to get a Nikon DSLR.

Next, you need to think about what you are going to be taking photos of and what features you will need. The two best entry level Nikon cameras are the D3200 and D5200. In the most general situations I recommend people that have a limited budget get the cheaper camera, even second hand, and invest some more money in getting some extra lenses. Lenses give you far more flexibility and creativity than features do.

But these two cameras do have some differences and if budget is not an issue then the 5200 will give you an awful lot of things that would recently only have been found on professional grade cameras. While you may not be an Ansel Adams, you will not outgrow this camera too soon.

One important thing I always point out is that you should not get hooked up on megapixels. Pretty much all DSLRs now have such powerful sensors that you will be able to print and modify at a scale that will be more than enough. Unless you are planning to print billboard size images or modify individual strands of hair a few extra MP will not make you a better photographer.

As already mentioned focus on spending a little bit extra on some lenses that are not the cheapest in their category. I would generally suggest a decent zoom lens and a large aperture or wide angle lens to accompany the standard one in the box. Too many times do I see amateurs trying to get the latest and greatest features before they know how to use the most basic aspects.

Understanding the limits and capabilities of your lenses is incredibly important as they will dictate so many shutter speed, aperture and other settings. Get used to them and try them out in all sorts of conditions to find out their limitations. This will pay off more than fancy in camera features.

Overall you will not go wrong with either the D5200 or D3200 and your budget will probably pay a large part in your decision. Yes the D5200 is better, but I would rather see people spend more on lenses than cameras.

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