"creative"

Lesson 9: Learning to See Creatively



Now that we've gone through some of the most important nuts and bolts in photography, this lesson is the first in a series of lessons on how to develop your creative vision.


Did you know that seeing creatively is a talent you can learn? It's totally possible for everyone! God made each person a special, unique individual - that means that no one sees the world exactly like you do! By following the principles outlined in this lesson and the lessons to come, you will learn the tools to translate the beauty you see in the world into beautiful pictures for others to see and enjoy.

If you use your camera well, others will be able to truly see the world through your eyes.

That is communicating with your audience.

What is your goal?


Do you want your viewers to get excited about the outdoors or eager to get a print of that photo for their house? Are you trying to get people to see the beauty in the little moments throughout our daily lives? I'll ask you again, what is your goal?
Do your photos look like snapshots? Like they were shot on the edge of a crowd? No excitement? Do you apologize - do you say it looked so much more amazing in person? Often our photos don’t show what we experienced. This is why we have to learn to communicate with other people through our pictures.
The question is, “What are you trying to say with this picture? What are you trying to communicate?"
Keep the image simple.
That means, don’t include too many unrelated elements in the image.

Simplicity is the Key – See how little you can include while still creating masterpieces.
Know what you're trying to show and then show it well!

Enough about that... 

Let's talk about Perspectives


Try all different angles. If you regularly take pictures of flowers by looking down at them from above, try lying down and actually looking up at them. The least used angle is shooting up at something. Try shooting up at your two-year-old boy or at least see how the world looks from down on their level. Follow him around when he's outside exploring. Get down on your knees or stomach. Change your perspective. 


I had this idea for a cute photo, but shooting from above made for a boring shot.


So, I changed my perspective and got a much more interesting photo as the result.




Experiment! Don't just stop after your first try.


What if ants are crawling across your picnic blanket to devour your peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Now is a good time to practice humility. Lie down on the ground. Get down and see what they do.

Feet are a great subject. Have you considered taking pictures of a building being newly constructed in the spring? Why not make your picture more interesting by changing your perspective and looking at the same scene with construction worker's muddy boots and lower legs framing your shot?






As adults, we often see each other on the same level, so, while this is a nice, solid photo, it isn't as unique as the following one. It's good to get both! You'll need different ones for different occasions. Which photo would you choose?






When you spot a fun picture idea, play around with the possibilities. 

Your perspective matters!

Keep snapping!
Laura

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."

~ 1 John 3:1



Lesson 8 - Light, Part 2


Dawn (sunrise) and dusk (sunset) often have the best light for outdoor photography. Know ahead of time when and where the sun will rise and set. If you know this, you will be able to plan when and where to be to get the best shots.

“Whether you’re photographing a landscape, a flower, or a castle, there is an appropriate light that will bring out the best attributes of your subject.” – Unknown  


The cool colors of early morning bring out the coldness of the frost in this picture.

  • Think about what kind of light would be best for your subject and why.


Backlighting this soybean pod at sunset highlights its beautiful feathery-ness.

Bad weather is often great for exciting pictures. If you include the sky, it needs to look interesting.
Plan ahead for great light. Keep a list of places or things and what kind of lighting you think would suit them best. To refresh your memory, review Lesson 7 on the kinds of light.

We can learn a lot from the masters in photography. 
Here is what some of them say about light.

Read the following eye-opening statements and then think about how to take this knowledge and apply it to your photography. Your photography will improve drastically!


“When the magic hour arrives, my thoughts center on the light rather than on the landscape. I search for when the perfect light is right and everything is working earthbound to match with it.”…”When the light is right and everything is working for me, I feel as tense as when making a difficult maneuver high on a mountain. A minute – and sometimes mere seconds- can make the difference between a superb image and a mundane one.” – Galen Rowel

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman

“Of course, your camera also has certain limitations. While you have two eyes to take in a scene, the camera is limited to one. While your eye and mind can balance the details in highlight and shadow, you may find your camera and film unable to record these details as you perceive them with your eye. Understanding the limitations and strengths of your camera equipment and film are the first steps toward taking consistently better photographs.” – Jim and Kate Rowinski

 “I look for what I have seen before, and I follow the hints of magical light the way I would follow clues on a treasure map. As Luis Pasteur once said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’, and I almost never arrive at the right place at the right time to make a photograph by chance. I am there because my photography has led me there through an understanding of the nuances of mountain light.”     “I almost never set out to photograph a landscape, nor do I think of my camera as a means of recording a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a ‘record’ shot. My first thought is always of light”                   “It is easy to forget that light to photographers, like language to writers, is their only means of artistic expression. Without an understanding of language, combined with imagination and intuition, occasional strings of lyrical words are little more than intermittent accidents. So are photographs made without understanding the language of light.” “three components that need to merge at the instant the shutter is released in order to make a truly fine photograph of the natural world: technical proficiency, personal vision, and light.” – Galen Rowel

“Working the edge of a storm in hopes of finding dramatic light can be (both) frustrating and tremendously rewarding.” -Jim & Kate Rowinski



…”magic hour, soft light, backlight, light against light. Beyond those is a selective emphasis that sets them apart. Natural forms lose much of their significance when taken out of context, yet many photographers isolate single subjects in what I believe is a misguided quest for simplicity. Of far more importance is harmony, that is, combining the parts into a whole to create a clear message.” – Galen Rowel



I was reading some facts about light at Porter’s Camera, and thought I’d recreate some of them here for you to benefit from!


Light Facts:


Soft Light = broad light – A cloudy day will produce soft light because whole sky is transformed into one huge, diffused light source.

Narrow Light = harsh light – it’s coming from a small light source

Front light = flat light – In portrait photography, front lighting certainly helps when trying to make wrinkles disappear! Front lighting isn’t as interesting as side lighting though. It’s a trade-off. J

Side light brings out texture – and blemishes too! Good portraits often use something in between front lighting and side lighting. Highlights and shadows add depth and interest – just make sure there is detail in both!

All Light = colored light – Light has all the colors of the rainbow, even though it looks white, so remember to set your white balance to get the effect you want!


That’s all for today!
Talk to you next time,
Laura

“Find out what kind of light inspires you, then determine what subjects most often draw your attention and concentrate on them.” – Jim and Kate Rowinski


"Thy work is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalm 119:105

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

Controlling the Camera’s Shutter Speed: Lesson 5

The shutter speed you select controls how long the camera’s shutter is open letting in light and making the picture.

Why should you learn how to control the shutter speed?
  1. Be able to set a shutter speed high enough not to get blurry pictures at low light levels
  2. Be able to create all kinds of pictures that show movement.

Camera Mode to use: Tv (time value) – controls the shutter speed


In your camera, the shutter speeds looks something like this: 1/60 (the shutter is open for one sixtieth of a second), or this: 1/200 (the shutter is open for one two hundredth of a second), etc.

Regularly, the goal when taking pictures is to freeze a moment in time forever. If the room is dark or the lights are dim, the camera will often set a slow shutter speed, motion will not be frozen, and you will be left with a blurry picture and only a mental picture of how cute baby Anna Marie or little Timmy looked.

There are two types of motion that have to be compensated for: your shaking hands and the movement of your subjects.

For shaking hands – and everybody’s hands shake at least a little! – If your camera has something called IS (Canon), VR (Nikon), or OS (Sigma), use it!

Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR) or whatever you want to call it (!) is very helpful in compensating for small jiggles on your part, but does nothing to fix the blur of your dog dashing towards you or any other movement in the scene apart from your movement. Bracing your hands or camera against something solid or using a tripod also helps reduce or eliminate blurriness from your hand movements.  Remember that what is needed to fix the blur of a dog running past you is a high shutter speed.



I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of water – rushing through rocks, and in streams, rivers and waterfalls. When photographing water, you have a choice to make. Either pick a high shutter speed (1/2000 of a second) and capture each water droplet as it is sprayed into the air, freezing the moment, OR pick a slow shutter speed (1/2 to 2 seconds depending on how fast the water is flowing) and capture the silky smooth, painterly motion of the water.

For these fun shots, the girl or boy had to stand VERY still for several seconds and then duck out of the picture quickly at my signal for the rest of the exposure time (the camera was on a tripod). The effect turns out different every time! (If needed, the faces can be lit with a weak flash light from off to the side of the camera, but be careful not to hurt their eyes!) I took these pictures several years ago when I was first learning to control my shutter speed. :) 



In this photo, I wanted to take a picture of this tiny toy in a dramatic way. The problem: it was dark and it was evening. So, I picked up a flashlight and BAM! I had dramatic lighting. All I had to do was set the camera on a solid surface, set the 2 second delay timer, and keep the flashlight shining on the truck. The shutter speed was 1/8 second. One other important point: Remember to set the exposure compensation if you’re taking a picture of a dark scene and don’t want the blacks to end up as grays. Here, I set my exposure compensation to -1.

An Interesting Thought:

When taking a picture...
A small aperture number and a shorter shutter speed = A big aperture number and a longer shutter speed

Some general guidelines:

  1. Check your pictures for blur, especially indoors or at twilight. If they’re blurry, boost the shutter speed!
  2. If you have very steady hands, you’ll be able to handhold your camera at much slower shutter speeds than those whose hands aren't super steady. Experiment to find out how low you can go while still getting crystal clear pictures. Keep in mind that when you are excited or rushed, you may have to set the shutter speed higher.
  3. If you can, a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 of a second is a good shutter speed to start with for freezing action. Even 1/500 doesn’t stop all action! Sometimes I have to set a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second or even 1/4000 of a second!
  4. It’s always best to err on the safe side and choose a higher shutter speed than you think is needed (if the lighting is bright enough for you to have that option!). Better safe than sorry!


Assignment:


Go out and test your knowledge! Don’t be afraid to try anything! (We learn by making mistakes -  sometimes I wish that wasn’t so true!)

So many creative possibilities open up once you’ve learned how to control the shutter speed. I can’t even begin to cover them here. See ya later!

Have a marvelous day!

~ Laura

"And the angel answered and said unto the women, 
Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.”
Matthew 28:5-6a

I hope you all had a meaningful Resurrection Sunday!

Understanding Apertures: Lesson 4

First, set your camera mode to Av (Aperture Value) so that you can take control of the aperture rather than letting the camera make your creative decisions.

A Definition: 

Your camera lens' aperture = an adjustable opening in the camera that limits the amount of light passing through a lens

A large aperture number such as f/16 or f/22 = a large part of the scene in focus (a large depth of field)
A large aperture number lets in less light.

A small aperture number like f/2.8 or f/4 = a small part or small slice of the scene in focus (a small depth of field)
A small aperture number lets in more light. Pick a smaller aperture number when you are inside or when it is dark. By picking a small number, you will let in more light and be able to take better pictures in dim lighting conditions.
A small aperture number is a way to simplify or isolate your subject.

“If you get confused with the f-stop numbers, try to remember that the bigger the number, the bigger the amount of focus, and the smaller the number, the smaller the amount of focus.”
 – Mike Moats

Do you want everything sharp and filled with detail - from the foreground to the background? 
Pick a big aperture number like I did in the picture below.


Is the background of your picture "busy" or cluttered, meaning that it has lots of distracting elements?
Choose a small aperture number for a small depth of field (a small amount of the picture sharp) 
to focus attention on the subject.
This photo was made using a small aperture number.

Choose where people's eyes will go in the picture by using a small aperture number. 
What is the focus of the image?
Here I chose to focus on the hot sauce bottle and let the boy go out of focus. 

How to choose which aperture to use:


  • What are you trying to convey?
  • Does the background add to the picture or does it detract from the subject?

Assignment:


Find 3 different scenes or subjects. For each one, take a picture at your camera's smallest aperture number, biggest aperture number, and middle aperture number. Study the differences between the pictures in each set.
Not seeing much difference? Set the camera's smallest aperture number and focus on an object very close to your camera lens. Take a picture. Now, set the camera to the highest aperture number. Keep the camera in the same place and keep the focus on the same object. Take a second picture.


"Repeat shooting the same images at different apertures each time you go out. Little by little, you will become comfortable at the different f-stops and be able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities that are better suited to one style or the other.” – Alan L. Detrick



"Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Psalm 50:14-15



White Balance Settings and Color Correction - Lesson 2

How was the first lesson? (If you didn’t understand something, let me know!)


Lesson 2

This lesson is all about white balance and creative white balance.

Sometime, sooner or later, you will have a big problem on your hands. The pictures you take may end up with weird, ugly colors – not at all the way the scene looks to your eyes! The color cast in your problem pictures can be corrected by changing the white balance setting in your camera.

Look at this picture. The colors don't look realistic at all. Candlelight, firelight, and lantern light all look yellow/orange, but the camera often makes the light from these things dull and lifeless. 
Compare the picture above with this one:

The good news is, fixing the weird, ugly colors of the first image isn't hard! First, make sure your camera is set to Av (Aperture Value or Aperture Priority) or Tv (Time value, otherwise known as shutter speed priority) mode - something other than full auto. Then, figure out how to get to the white balance options. If you’re having trouble, go get the camera manual and look up how to set the white balance. (Yeah, yeah. I know – it’s probably the first thing you threw away after you figured out how to take a picture! Bad idea. The camera manual, boring as it is to slog through, is one of the most useful tools available!)

White Balance Settings – Set the camera's white balance to match the lighting conditions around you.

Here’s how the white balance setting work:

AWB (Auto White Balance) is easy to use, quick, and gives you absolutely no creative control. It gets good results in many cases, but miserably fails in the tougher situations. That is when you have to take control!

Daylight, often designated by a sun icon, is a great setting to use on sunny days when you’re outside taking pictures.

The Cloudy setting – usually shown by a cloud icon – is used for exactly what the name says – a cloudy or overcast day when the sun isn’t shining. It also comes in handy when taking beautiful portraits using window light. (Note: Use the Cloudy setting or the Daylight setting in the shade if your camera doesn’t have a Shade setting for use in the shade.) 
Light on a cloudy day is blue. A picture taken using AWB (Auto White Balance) on a cloudy day often ends up looking cool, not warm and cheerful.
A picture of a cute kitten chewing on a flower bud shouldn't look dull and lifeless. Changing your camera settings to Cloudy will fix this problem quickly.

The Fluorescent setting comes in handy when inside under fluorescent lights. (See! This is all very logical!) The fluorescent setting helps remove the green color cast that is produced by these lights. People are much more flattered when they don't look slightly green and a bit seasick in photos!

Try it and you’ll see that the Tungsten setting (usually designated by a light bulb) gives most pictures a very blue cast. This setting is useful for two things:
1. Under yellow or orange lights inside a building, Tungsten helps produce pictures with more realistic colors by cancelling out the yellow/orange color cast.
2. Tungsten is one of my favorite settings to use creatively as we’ll talk about later.

Flash white balance – (It looks like a lightning strike.) Use when taking flash pictures. J How hard is that?

Last is Custom White Balance. This one takes a little bit of time to learn and is well worth the extra effort. 
Basically, all you do is to fill the whole picture with plain white – either a piece of paper, a white wall, or ceiling, etc. and photograph that white object in the same room under the same lighting conditions where you will be taking the following pictures. Then use the picture of the white object to set the Custom White Balance. Once the white balance is set using your white picture, all the following pictures you take under the same lighting conditions will have perfectly balanced colors. This setting is wonderful for the trickiest lighting situations. (Just remember to change the white balance back to one of the regular settings when you leave the room! If you don't, all the pictures you take under different lighting conditions will have skewed colors.)  Another use for custom white balance is when white balance is used creatively.


Using White Balance Settings Creatively

What can you do to increase the vividness and color of a sunset or sunrise? Why don't you try setting your White Balance to Cloudy or Shade? This brings out the fiery reds, oranges, and yellows even more.


Want to make it seem more like night or just get a cool, mysterious effect? Try the Tungsten setting and see what happens! You might love the results.  Another use for the Tungsten setting would be if a sunset or sunrise has a lot of blue or purple in it.


Want to explore even more? Really get creative using Custom White Balance. Instead of being confined to taking pictures of a flat white object and using those pictures to set your custom white balance, try photographing a blue or an orange sheet of paper (Fill the frame completely with the sheet of paper.) or another flat, one-colored object. Use this photo to set the custom white balance. Using your new setting, the world’s colors will be transformed! With some practice and a spirit of adventure, you will learn what subjects and scenes benefit from this treatment. Play around. The possibilities are endless!


Assignment:

  • Go over the lesson again, this time with your camera.
  • Try each setting and see the effect it produces!
  • When taking pictures this week, remember to experiment with the many white balance settings.
  • Use white balance to help fix weird colors in your problem pictures.
  • Go outside for at least one sunrise or sunset this week and try out your new creative white balance techniques.


See you next time!

A helpful quote:

 “Shoot a lot and take a lot of notes!  The more you know 
about what you did and how to either repeat 
what is successful or eliminate your errors, the faster you’ll see major advancements in your photography.”…”Owning the most gadgets and fanciest equipment doesn’t guarantee the best images, you must know how to control all the variables.” – Ross Burden