If you are like me you find that most times you take photographs from a standing position. Often this is fine; taking a portrait eye-to-eye can work well for example. However there are times when it can pay-off to change your angle of view. Here are some pointers to help you with shooting your angles.
Kids and Pets
The most obvious time this works is when you take photographs of children or pets. The feel of the image changes completely when you get down “on their level”. Getting down low is not just about physical height; it is a reflection of your attitude. Here is an example where I got down nice and low:
Getting low and close here helps you to enter the drama of the scene:
The kind of lens you are using helps, too. If you only have the lens that came with your camera, set your zoom to the widest setting (something like 15mm for example) and get really close. You will get distortion; in this case this is what you want to get that “cute” look. A word to the wise – not a good idea to do this on a woman unless they really want you to post a photo with them having a giant nose! You can shoot directly above children as well with them looking up; it can make the photo feel hopeful or innocent. This is what I did on this one:
With women it is best to either shoot at eye-level or with your camera slightly above. I don’t like to be up too high otherwise the eyes look a bit strange (too much white in the bottom). Again as a rule shooting from below is not very flattering (on the whole). If you can choose the longest lens you have to take these types of shots. The long focal length compresses the image and makes the face look a bit thinner. I will happily shoot with my 300mm f4 lens! If you shoot to the side check the eyes to make sure the white looks nice and balanced. Plus if you do shoot from this angle you will need a smaller aperture (like f8) to make sure both eyes are in focus. When taking photos of guys you can shoot from below and this does work.
It seems natural to set your tripod up at eye level and shoot from there. But everyone does that, right? Try getting down very low, using something like a piece of clothing or rice sack to position your camera on. You will get a real “bug’s eye view” of the scene.
If you do shoot standing-up then try going as wide as possible with your lens and look directly down. If your lens is pretty wide (like the Canon 10-22mm on a APS-C body or 17-40mm f4 on a full-framed one), you will get some interesting distortion. I do this sometimes when the sky is a bit boring (no clouds!); I focus on the ground, leaving around 1/3 of the picture as sky.
Anyway, hopefully these little tips will help you create more interesting photos. Sometimes all you need to do is change your angle of view!
Do you have a zoom lens with your camera? They are handy for sports, portraits and wildlife. I usually shoot sports with my Canon 300 mm f4 lens, sometimes with a 1.4x extender for a little extra reach. This lens is great for capturing birds and distant sports action but lacks the versatility of a zoom lens. Generally speaking a fixed focal length lens is usually faster at focussing then its zoom counterpart. I was shooting for a few hours at my son’s cricket game, using this longer lens for most of the time. It’s amazing how that player fills the image when you use something over 400 mm!
Well, after a while I thought I’d mix it up a bit with a shorter zoom – so I switched to the 70-200 f2.8 lens. Now that is a heavy lens! You can shoot hand-held but a tripod with a swivel head or monopod is the best way to go. (Camera and lens weigh over 2 kilos!)
Here’s some things you can try with your zoom lens:
Freeze the action
Kind of obvious I guess but worth stating! Depending on your sport, something over 1/1000 second is a good bet here. I set my camera to Av (Aperture Priority on a Canon) and set it to my widest aperture (smallest f number). On a nice bright day like this was the ISO can be 200 or so to get a very fast shutter speed. (Keep an eye on the shutter speed over the course of the game in case the light changes with clouds etc). Freezing the action is great if you catch “that” moment.
If you want to reduce the risk of camera shake then have a shutter speed that is around the same as your lens length. For example, with a 300mm lens make sure you are 1/320 or faster.
Showing the action.
Sometimes its better to show the action by slowing down the shutter. The trick is that once you do that you might get some dreaded camera shake. That’s when you really need a monopod or tripod. I use a Manfrotto 393 Heavy Telephoto Lens Support to let me rotate around while still remaining steady. Great for wildlife, too.
Creating some drama.
One final thing you can try is to zoom your camera, while you are taking the shot. Here I pre-focussed on the player and the waited for the action. Once the ball arrived I zoomed-out as I pressed the shutter. This one was 1/20th of second:
It will take a few tries to get one you like. Start at 1/60th and see how it goes. You can do this handheld but you will getter better results if you use a tripod!
You know what it is like when you’re getting towards the end of winter; day after day of gloom with no end in sight. Winter can seem so long. Spring is almost here now and the first flowers are making their tentative appearance. Its almost like they are putting their “toes” into the cold water, testing it before jumping in!
I’m constantly looking for anything that looks vaguely like a flower and so I do find them in the strangest places. That said the best place in the depth of winter is the botanical gardens or anywhere with a decent glasshouse. Failing that I go back over my archives, longingly gazing at flowers I’ve photographed in the past.
Here’s a lovely rose I came across from the end of last simmer. My botanical knowledge is pretty limited I usually refer to flowers by the their colour. In this case I like the yellow looking one!
This photo by the way was captured using the so-called “plastic” 50mm 1.8 lens from Canon. At the price it is a must have if you’re branching away from the kit lens that came with your new camera. Often people think they need a big zoom or longer reach lens but really the standard 50mm is so versatile its hard to beat. I’ve got the Canon 50mm 1.4 semi-permanently attached to my Canon 5D as a great walk-around lens.
Takes pretty good “yellow flower” photos too, it turns-out.
I always hard to figure out what to photograph on one of those miserable rainy days. The skies are grey and birds are hiding away waiting for the storm to die down. I reckon these kinds of days are when getting out a macro lens and either creating something abstract or capturing some nature is the way to go. We were lucky enough to find this weta (a New Zealand native insect) right outside the back door. Weta’s are often found in damp places so the odd bit of rain didn’t phase this character. They can grow very large but this one was only about 4cm long; I was careful to not annoy the insect as it has a long stinger at the back. I’ve been stung by one and it really hurts (harmless though)!
To take the shot I placed the weta on a piece of think glass and then used an off-camera flash from below. I dialled-down my flash to 1/32 power; just enough to give him and the rain drops a little sparkle. Now is the time for some full disclosure; the rain had let up a bit by now so I used a little spray from a $2 water spray bottle to add in a few more drops. Don’t worry it was pretty gentle and there was no danger of swamping the insect. After the shoot I returned the weta back to the garden.
You can buy a print of this to scare your friends here.
Use the coupon SUPERSAVERJUNE2012 during June 2012 to get 40% off!
I’ve recently discovered a neat little cove near where we live. It takes a little effort to get there; climbing over the rocks a through a few caves. Sometimes you have to take a few risks (dropping your gear!) to get a shot. I was climbing over rocks with a couple of cameras strapped over my shoulder, using the tripod as a walking stick. Really the only risk was wrecking my gear. Having said that I did manage to bang my head on the roof of a cave. There’s nothing like shedding a little blood for your art, right?
This image was captured with the new Canon 5D Mark III, with a 24-105 f4 lens attached. Actually the hardest part is keeping the lens clean with the constant salt spray whipped-up by the wind. By the way, I just corrected some exposure and levels on this to create the image. Finally adding a little vignette to complete.
So, take a risk and find somewhere new to capture beauty.
You can’t beat a simple reflector when it comes to controlling natural light. The one I used on this shot is a 5 in one type, large round reflector. The subject had her back towards the sun (it was low but not setting) and I had my assistant angle the gold side until it hit her face. Really that’s all there is too it. I exposed for the face but the reflector compresses the light in such a nice way that it makes that pretty easy too.
The only minor thing I did in Lightroom was to remove some of the gold light from her teeth. I thing to watch-out for! If you cant afford a reflector just use the a foil window shade (the type you get for a car). Of course they are normally silver so not as good as the gold in this case. My reflector also has a white side, which lets you filter direct light. I took a few shots with that as well but in the end the sea made a much nicer background.
You can’t beat the classic 50mm lens when it comes to making an intimate portrait. This one was taken using the 50mm 1.4 EF lens from Canon. Its quite a jump in price from the “plastic fantastic” 50mm 1.8 but worth the jump if you can afford it. The 50mm 1.8 can be used to create some pretty sweet photos considering its price-point (around $100 USD). What you will find though is that the 1.4 has a much more pleasing bokeh; the increased number of blades in the lens is probably a factor there. Attached to a APS-C type camera (like the 7D used here) can mean that you lose a bit of that intimacy and certainly you will find it a bit cramped in a café type location. In that case the 35mm might be a better bet.
When all is said done you really do need to have some kind of 50mm lens in your kit. Start with the 1.8 (Nikon have a similarly priced one too) and then work your way up. My only negative with the 50mm 1.4 is that it’s not weather-sealed; you’ll have to go all the way up to the expensive Canon 50mm 1.2 model to get that.
For this photo I processed it using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 for the black and white conversion, then blending it out to bring back some colour. I’m not a huge fan of the selective colouring, which is to my mind often over used. I guess it’s just a matter of taste at the end of the day.
By the way I tried this exact portrait with the 50mm attached to a Canon 5D and preferred this one in the end!
Topaz Clean is a cool Photoshop plug-in that you can use to create a kind of painterly or art effect to an image. There way I see it the plug-in alters the edges of objects by either removing detail or turning a straight line into a wiggly one. The effect is easier to see than explain! I find it works best on nature or landscapes. When you use it on an animal with feathers or fur you can create a very interesting look. On this bird (a black shag) you can see in the feathers look more pronounced. As you might guess its one of those effects that can be over-used. More advice is to push it to extremes and then use a mask to paint-in just the bits that work.
Download it from Topaz and give it a whirl; you will love it!
It’s all about capturing the moment; what else really matters when it comes to photography? This was such a lovely moment, the first dance as husband and wife. The wedding day can be so busy with the bridal party socializing, greeting guests and of course, getting their photograph taken! At the end of the day, bride and groom finally get a few moments together. Its on the dance floor with everyone watching but still you can feel quite alone as you take those few minutes to whisper words of love to each other. Well, I’m a romantic so I assume that is what they are doing!
I took this photo with the 24-104 f4 lens; a great lens for weddings but in this case I needed to increase the ISO to get the final shot. More and more these days, I’m throwing caution to the wind by increasing that ISO way up. I shot quite a few images at this wedding with 6400 ISO and the final result was really nice. Of course sometimes you need a little extra “help” in Photoshop to remove some noise but I’d rather do that and get the shot.
I’d love to capture your special moments, too. Contact me if you’re getting married, engaged or having a baby and I’ll be there!
Sometimes it helps to pre-visualize the photo; that’s what I did here. I was thinking that the scene could look interesting if it was converted to black-white using an Infrared effect. So, the photo was actually taken in the middle of the day with quite bright sunlight (though with cloud as you can see here). I processed the original image through Silver Efex Pro 2 for the conversion and then blended back in the original colour image (effectively selectively dodge and burn).
The result is an image that looks like a dramatic moonlit night.