Many of you have got digital cameras.
Given that almost every mobile phone now has a camera built into it, and also that everyone seems to have at least one digital compact camera in their household, I think there must be many more digital cameras in the UK now than there are people. That’s a very interesting statistic. It would be interesting to know how many of the people who have a digital camera have read the manual or been on a photographic training course…
The automatic focusing and exposure systems on newer cameras are simply extraordinary. They can identify faces, allow you to choose which person is the most important in a group, and then follow that person around the frame as they move. Some cameras even take two pictures in quick succession, compare them, and then tell you if the people in the pictures have blinked, thus giving you a chance to retake it. 10 years ago this would all have seemed like science fiction.
Despite all this marvellous technology there are still an awful lot of images out there that can be improved. The main problem I see has been around for ages; it’s camera shake. Camera shake gives you images that are not sharp, so you aren’t getting the benefit of all those shiny new pixels. Here’s an example that I took for this post:
So how can you stop camera shake? The best way is to support the camera firmly during the exposure, and use the shortest shutter speed you can. The trend for cameras to have a viewing screen on the back, and to not have an optical viewfinder hasn’t helped with supporting the camera. Using the screen on the back forces you to hold the camera away from your body and this increases the risk of camera shake. If you can, rest the camera on a wall, shelf, tree, or anything that will stop it from moving around as you take the picture. I’ve even used the roof of my car – with the engine turned off of course.
The second trend that increases the risk of camera shake is zooming the lens in order to get closer. The more you zoom the more risk of shake there is. If you can, it’s better to get closer to your subject by moving yourself and then using less zoom. In these examples the first image shows shake, as I was further away and zoomed the lens as much as it would go. Like the door and tiles image above, these two images were taken to deliberately to show how it can go wrong!
With this image I got closer to the flowers and used less zoom. As you can see, the result is much sharper.
Digital cameras make it much easier to practice, so give it a try!
Once you have mastered the art of taking pictures without camera shake, you can move on to using it in a creative way, as shown in the first image of this post, and also below.
I’ll be writing more tips on improving your photography in future, so do keep checking the blog, or subscribe so you don’t miss any.
It’s great to be a family’s regular portrait photographer.
I recently photographed one of our clients’ third child. I photographed her first child in 2004, and we had a great time. He was about 19 months old and was interested in everything. At one point he fell into our – very shallow, and safe – stream. This was in the days of film, and it’s been fascinating looking back at those images, and remembering how different the process was.
On the day I shot a mixture of studio and location images, using both grainy B&W and colour film. The image above was shot with him on the studio steps in some lovely soft light.
Almost exactly two years later I photographed his brother at about the same age. Mum wanted images of the second child on his own so she would have a great record of the two boys at the same age. By now I was shooting digitally, and so the B&W images are converted from the original colour images. He was very energetic with a great grin, and spent a long time going up and down the three steps in our garden, obviously very pleased with himself for being able to do it without assistance.
This image of him is against a simple black background in the studio, and I think, really brought out his character.
Recently, as mentioned above, to complete the set of images of the children at the same age, our client brought along her third child for his shoot. He was happy spending time playing with his Mum’s mobile phone, as well as being extremely interested in our patio gravel. The image below shows him on the same steps as the first image, and also has the lovely soft light.
It was really interesting looking at the similarities, and differences between the children. They looked quite alike but their different characters came through at each shoot. It’s capturing these differences in character that makes photographing people so endlessly fascinating.
Mum loved the images from all three shoots, and there’s now a gallery of large images on the kitchen wall.
Last week was the Master Photographers’ Association (MPA) Regional Fine Art Photography awards, held near Bristol. The competition, for creative and artistic images, was judged by Peter Ellis, an ex-chairman of the MPA, and a respected international photography judge.
Peter awarded two of my images prizes. The first of these was a view of a couple on the beach at Rhossili on Gower. I chose a very narrow crop for this image as it really lifted the composition, and helped to show the romantic isolation of the couple. The image is effectively in three sections; the breaking waves, the receding waves, and the sand with the couple. The small dark triangle in the top-right corner stops your eye from going right out of the frame. We cover this sort of composition in our photography training courses.
The other image was one of my “Bokeh” series. Taken with a long telephoto lens, it’s of a leafless weeping silver birch tree covered in water droplets after the frost that was on it had melted in the sun. The sunlight shining through the droplets caused a myriad of colours due to diffraction. The branches made a lovely pattern across these highlights, and gave the image some “compositional energy”.
These “Bokeh” images are really beautiful and I’m looking forward to doing even more.
Some days it all just comes together nicely. I need to take my small, green, Italian classic car for a spin, and we noticed that there was a classic car show, and open gardens day, at a village about 10 miles away. So it was out with the polish and off to the show – and the gardens. There were about 170 cars there ranging from 1920’s stuff up to new Aston Martins. It was a real treat to see such a mixture of machinery. I was very surprised to see that my Pininfarina was the only Italian car there! No Alfas, Lancias, Fiats or even Ferraris.
I had taken along my Panasonic FX-500 compact digital camera and tried to capture the atmosphere. If I took images of whole cars I found that it was hard to get “clean” compositions. There was usually a person (or lots of people) in the background, and the other cars, whilst giving context, confused things photographically. Here’s an example of a small, green, Italian car…
It’s an OK image, with a good colour contrast between the green Pininfarina and the red TVR behind it, but the roofs of the other cars in the background do break up the lines a bit too much. The FX-500, like so many compact digital cameras, will focus to within a few centimeters of the subject, so I decided to experiment with clean, simple, close up images of the cars’ badges instead trying to get the whole car; “Less is more”. Chrome radiators and shiny bonnets are very reflective, so you do need to be careful that your own reflection isn’t in the pictures!
Car designers spend a lot of time getting the badges just right, and they are often small works of art in themselves. Triumph’s badge shows them ruling the world…
Bentley’s badge on the other hand, is a model of simplicity and elegance. The red B with wings either side echoes Bentley’s older “Flying B” bonnet mascot.
Here I think that the sunny highlight on the badge really lifts the image.
Hope this has given you some food for thought, and that you will enjoy taking this sort of image on your own compact digital cameras in future.