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5 Basics For the New Photographer

5 Basics For the New Photographer

 

1.  Watch your background

Keep this simple at first.  Watch for things sticking out of the top of someone’s head.  Ideally, you don’t want distractions. For example, if you are taking a portrait, usually you will not want other people waving in the background or some similar photo bombing.  Ask yourself the focus of the photo.  If you are trying to communicate something about the background, you want to show off Niagara Falls, then fine make sure that is there.  But even then, I’ve seen too many pictures of someone there or some other travel location where you can hardly tell who the subject is.  If you move in a little closer and get a shot of the person with the background showing but just a little less of it, you will make a better photo.  Try two or three distances to your subject from the camera and see which you like best.

One often sees a photographer building some elaborate background for a portrait or a model.  Usually, the subject(person) stands out in the photo with the background not being a distraction but a complement to the subject of the photo.  I’ve seen photographers starting out by trying the fancy backgrounds which become distracting and take away from the individual they are trying to shoot.  So, my advice to someone starting out it to start with the simple and build once you have mastered lighting and framing for your subject.

This can change as you become more skilled.  You may want to use the set or background to set a tone or to create a ‘period’ piece or a much more comprehensive and communicative portrait.

2.  Put some colour in an otherwise monochrome photo.

This can make an otherwise boring photo really pop.  If you are shooting children at a beach for example; if you can plan ahead, take a red or yellow beach ball with you.  The beach is nice but not generally very colourful.  Place some colourful sand toys or a beach ball or solid red Muskoka chair near or with the children and try some different angles that also show the beach.

There is a very good article here on using red with some good examples.  Don’t limit yourself to red though. Try a couple of the other primary colours as well.

The colour red

3.  Don’t cut off their feet.

This one drives me crazy.  It seems the people are too much of a hurry or just don’t care.  It could be that they are undecided whether they are taking a close up photo or one that takes in the person who is the subject and the background as well.  I do understand how it happens but the final photo always looks distracting and unbalanced.  Often people are trying for a full body shot with whatever background and do not notice that they are not including the feet in the finished photo.  Either move in a bit and cut them off at the waist or move out or lower the camera a bit to include the feet.  I personally prefer the ‘move in closer’ photo.  This can also be done afterwards by cropping the photo.  But you are likely to get a better photo overall if you either move in and get the upper body or just head and shoulders with the vista you are trying to capture still in the photo.  If you are using a fairly wide angle lens just move closer.  You can also zoom in but in this case more backwards a ways to incorporate both. 

4.  Make them uncomfortable.

Simple really.  I had a family early on that wanted a nice outdoor shot.  Winter.  The all stood in a row.  Mom and dad on the outside and the two boys between.  All looked very stiff and posed.  I asked them to all crouch down.  I took several shots while they were getting their balance.  And even after they started to get a bit more comfortable with the pose they all had quite a bit of attention on maintaining their positions instead of their facial expressions.  As a result all appeared relaxed and smiling. Do something to get their attention off posing.  I wouldn’t tell the person not to pose or anything that puts his or her attention on the way their face or body is. You can do this with a pro to some extent but not with someone who is not used to getting their photo taken.  You want their attention out not in.

5.  Change the angle or view.

This can be with a portrait or scenic or anything really.  In the studio several times I’ve walked to the side to adjust a light and looked at the model or subject of the portrait and saw the perfect shot from that angle – where the light was completely different.  Try different things.  Shoot a portrait high and shoot low.  See what the different angles do to the shape of the body.  Shooting a sunset at the beach, crouch or lie down and get really close to the water or sand or whatever.  Walk over and shoot partially behind a tree.  If you are shooting a waterfall, try from closer and farther away.  See if you can get above it and try that shot.

Here is a good article with some samples: Camera Angle – Portraits

In all of the above types of shots, try and compare.  Experiment and  you try different things.  Some will work for you and others may not.  Find ways of shooting that appeal to you.  If you take a couple of extra minutes to shoot the same photo a couple of different ways, you may find you learn a lot.  Once you get home and can compare the two photos from the same shot, close up and far away for example, you will get a better idea as to what works and what you like or don’t like.  Learn some rules and then break them and see of the photo is better or worse.  You be the judge!

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Model Portfolios Shot

Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Toronto – model portfolios

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Niagara Falls Boudior

Contact for Boudoir photos for the Niagara Falls area:

 

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Comic Con Calgary 2017

I’ve put most of the photos from Comic Con Calgary 2017 onto my Marty’s Road Trip blog.  You can find them here: www.photo-photo.net

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Smoke

Smoke…Portrait, headshot, boudoir…email me at martin@photo-photo.com  I’m in Calgary for a couple more months then Ontario.  Toronto/Niagara…

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Boudoir with K.

Winter boudoir photo shoot in Calgary with Karissa:

Soft lit boudoir

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Portrait of Alana

From a recent shoot with Alana. I’m moving to Ontario in Sept ’17.  Will be available to Toronto, Buffalo and surrounds for portraits: 

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Jenni Kukkonen Speed Skater from Finland

I few weeks ago a friend of mine – a speed skater name Jenni Kukkonen – invited me to a practice to take some photos.  They practice at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary.  I have shot sports before but usually outside where there is lots of light.  This was tricky because of the very low light.  I had the ISO cranked to about 2500.  I probably could have made it even higher.  The pictures are pretty grainy but nonetheless it was great having a chance to try my skills in this type of environment.

More about Jenni here: Jenni’s Website

The first bunch are Jenni, and below that are a few of the other skaters practicing:

 

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David Bowie Inspired…

When I do a ‘creative’ shoot I will often start with a photo or some type of image from another artist. This is usually just a point of ‘jumping off’ so to speak. With a creative model and lights, camera, etc it can end up anywhere. I showed Courtney the type of image of David Bowie with cigarette that I wanted to start with: suggestions of clothing, makeup, etc and we were off. Courtney is a singer – opera – with a voice like a very powerful angel. She is wonderfully animated and I love shooting with her. A few of the pics are here on the blog and some in the main section of the website.

Here you go:

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Critique and Comments(CC) Welcome – NOT!!

I’ll take NOT!!.  And I’ll explain why.

I saw a picture posted of a park bench(empty) on an Autumn day.  Was done in Black and White.  I liked the starkness of the picture with the dark, thick clouds.  It communicated to me.  The artist said in the post “CC Welcome”. One person commented that it would be a better shot with someone sitting on the bench.  For me it would have ruined the shot.

It is all about communication.  Really.  What are you trying to communicate. Someone may want to show the starkness of a shot like above where another photographer may want to show the loneliness of a person or juxtapose a cheerful, colorfully dressed individual on the bench.

If you post a picture or show it to someone and you are getting some kind of emotional response then I think you have done a decent job.  Some critics are going to be more interested in certain technical aspects of a photo than whether or not it communicates.  Or elicits some emotional response.  I have seen some very mediocre(technically) pictures that could make me laugh or cry endlessly.

Now, I’ll give you that as one’s expertise increases so does his or her ability to create effects.  And thus communicate more clearly or easily.  That doesn’t mean one has to always use every tool at their disposal.

Sometimes, I take certain pictures and way over-process them.  I have one selfie that I took where I’m smoking a cigar, squinting against the sun.  Shows me all wrinkled and old looking.  My girlfriend hates  it.  I feel the photo communicates a part of me.  Lots of people like and lots don’t.  I like it.  I think it is a great shot.  So there!

If I were to ask for C&C I would be very specific.  For example, if I were trying to get a wider range of tones in my black and white photos, I might post a picture and ask for ideas on how to do this.  Other photographers will have tried different things and some of your responses will be simple and some not so.  Often you are looking for something you can do within your means.  Starting out many don’t have the money to spend every time they need to try a new technique.  So, this is a good way to gets some cheaper, workable ideas.

The shotgun aspect of asking for general critique and comments covers too much.

I’ve seen more artists destroyed by criticism.  I think it is rarely, if ever, useful.

Now if I don’t like a particular communication – that is a different story.  Not every piece of art is for every public(audience).  Years ago, I was at a very public venue near Queen’s Quay in Toronto.  There were markets and stores and on the walls in one section there were framed photo prints of a couple of local photographers.  They were borderline porn.  This was a family venue. There were a huge number of people walking around with their children. Some very upset moms and dads.

I’m not commenting on the quality of the photos or anything of the sort.  I’m questioning the audience.

I’ve met few artists that don’t have some kind of idea of the quality of their art.  It isn’t that difficult to compare what you have done to a photographer you are trying to emulate.  Though we are often our own worst critics.  And saying that, if we are questioning something that we have created, and someone slams us, that is not going to do much for our willingness to continue to create.

Some will say this will make us a better artist.  I vehemently disagree.  Doing more of your art and increasing one’s expertise will make one better.  As a photographer, one can now do volumes and volumes much more cheaply than 30 years ago.  This has its pros and cons.  One has to actually learn techniques and pay attention to what they are doing.

Here is a simple example.  A million snapshot portraits are taken at Niagara Falls where the photographer ‘cuts off the feet’ of the people in the picture.  Reading a beginner photo magazine will make sure that someone learns not to do this.  If you asked for C&C on a picture like this you may get a hundred different opinions: ‘the falls were out of focus’, ‘you need to use your flash’, you need to not use your flash’ … The point being one could improve the quality by just not cutting off the feet.  Reading, observing, learning and most of all doing.

I tend to ask my market audience if they like or don’t like rather than other photographers.  Why show your head shots to another to another agency where he or she may hate them or suggest all sorts of changes but the actors agent may love them!

So, in a word, Comments and Critiques not welcome.

(Thanks for listening.)

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